Improving employee engagement increases your company's ROI in numerous ways: boosting morale and productivity, and even reducing the use of sick days -- though hopefully your employees don't love their jobs so much that they come into work even when they're actually sick. 

Knowing engagement should be a point of focus and understanding how to improve engagement are, alas, two different steps. It's easy to pay lip service to engagement as a point of focus; it's more difficult to deliver cultural change that delivers benefits to employee and employer alike.

HR specialist Bob McCarthy, the managing director for Wrkit, a single-source employee engagement platform, believes companies make four common mistakes relating to engagement. Here's how to hurdle those pitfalls. 

1. Find a working definition of employee engagement.

McCarthy explains that before you can improve engagement, HR managers must create a working definition, one that's specific and unique to their own company.

"Managers create an idea of employee engagement that's too big and has too many definitions," he says. "Don't overcomplicate it."

Instead of focusing on all aspects of engagement, find one or two that mean the most to your company and make sure what you choose is measurable. Some companies may strive to improve survey responses while others focus on employee retention.

2. Provide opportunities for education and growth.

Science says that employees thrive when they're provided with an environment conducive to growth. Learning new skills helps your employees develop their careers and become better at what they do, but it also leads to an increase in dopamine release. This neurotransmitter plays a primary role in the brain's pleasure center and reward system, which means it makes people feel good and encourages them to continue doing what they're doing.

To get the most benefit from your employees' innate drive to learn, provide them with the resources they need to succeed. From fun, team-oriented trainings to helping individuals access educational opportunities, providing your employees with resources to support their personal and professional growth pays back exponentially.

3. Encourage self-efficacy through recognition.

Self-efficacy, the belief in your ability to handle situations and obstacles, plays a vital role in employee engagement. An integral part of psychologist Albert Bandura's social cognitive theory, self-efficacy describes how people view their ability to handle challenges. When this belief is strong, it can drive a passionate commitment to their work. 

While self-efficacy develops throughout a lifetime, managers can improve how employees view their own ability to succeed. Persuade people to believe in themselves and their skills by recognizing their accomplishments and efforts. In one study, after a manager took a moment to thank her employees for a job well done, her team saw a 50 percent increase in productivity the following week, showing that a little bit of recognition can go a long way.

McCarthy puts it simply: "Sometimes they just want a high-five" -- which is why the Wrkit platform includes features like a recognition wall, where team members can give immediate positive feedback for big and small accomplishments.

4. Build engagement from the beginning.

Although employee engagement can seem a daunting or even Sisyphean task, once you define your goals and start to provide employees with targeted resources, engagement will grow organically. Engaged employees are happy employees -- and happy employees are more likely to the take advantage of additional opportunities for growth. These continue to feed off one another and suddenly, employee engagement soars through the roof.

If you want to get the most from employee engagement, start from the beginning. When a job candidate joins your company after a smooth hiring and onboarding experience, one that's transparent and collaborative, their engagement builds and continues to grow as they move through job training and the first months of employment. Thoughtful onboarding establishes the foundation for a strong employee base that remains engaged long-term.

Published on: Dec 21, 2017