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4 ways HR offices can improve employee engagement

engagement3Today’s businesses face the never-ending challenge of ensuring employee retention and productivity despite countless threats to worker morale. Questions about salaries, benefits and professional status – not to mention personal issues – are always threatening the prospect of employees remaining happy with their jobs.

For many reasons, it’s difficult to parse exactly what role HR departments play in ensuring employee engagement. Companies can work hard to enact policies that will keep their employees motivated, but what effect will their efforts ultimately have? It’s difficult to measure or predict in advance.

According to Training Zone, engagement goes both ways – companies do what they can to keep their employees engaged, but the workers themselves must contribute to the cause by applying themselves. Lucy Standing, an occupational psychologist serving as associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, explained that the changing times have made it more difficult for companies to gauge the effectiveness of their engagement initiatives.

“As a leader you can work hard to get things right, but the reality is that engagement is a two-way process,” Standing wrote. “Positive moves and gestures won’t help if employees have neither the motivation nor desire to be engaged. The hard truth is that we live in a rapidly changing world influenced by different demographics, smart technologies and a shift in generational aspirations. The context in which people are working is in constant churn.”

All of that said, there are some factors that undeniably play a role in dictating an employee’s level of engagement.

Company “coolness”
Standing points out that the status of one’s employer can have a major effect on morale. If your company is the hip new thing, generating brisk business and getting favorable attention in the media, it’s much easier to be happy in that situation than if you’re plugging away for a dying company. If a business is successful, its employees will be happier.

Relationships with bosses
Employees place a premium on having supervisors they can work with effectively. Training Zone reported that a Dale Carnegie study from 2012 found supervisor relationships were the No. 1 factor affecting engagement levels. If employees have solid relationships with their superiors, they’ll work hard to give them quality production.

Loyalty versus freelancing
Training Zone points out that younger workers are less loyal than those who came before them – Generation Y workers stay in one job for an average of two years, compared with Generation X who stays for five years and Baby Boomers who stay for seven. Employees aren’t as devoted anymore, and they appreciate having opportunities to play the field. Some may prefer to do some freelance work on the side rather than work solely for one employer. Having this chance might make them happier in the long run.

Changing motivations
People’s motivations tend to change over time. Sometimes younger workers are highly ambitious because they want to advance their careers, while sometimes older individuals have other priorities in life, such as working on their marriages or raising their children.

Employee engagement is difficult to quantify and improve. Still, it would behoove employers to pay attention to these four factors.

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