Remember having substitute teachers back in grade school? It was almost always a welcoming surprise, especially if you forgot to complete an assignment that was due. Upon learning of your teacher's absence, you'd let out a sigh of relief, then do whatever busy work you were handed to pass the time.
While that approach might work for high school, keeping your employees busy for the sake of being busy might not be the best strategy for the workplace.A productive employee isn't one who is simply always working. Productivity, by definition, means effectively achieving results. If your employees are working non-stop for eight to ten hours a day but not reaching well-defined goals, how productive are they really being?
As a recent article in the Huffington Post suggests, the key to a productive workplace lies in changing our perspective on productivity. Lost productivity, it explains, can actually be productive for the workplace...if the time spent away from work is focused on increasing the engagement among employees.
This comes as a result of research from Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workforce, which found that 70% of employees are disengaged at work. And when employees are disengaged, they get bored, which can lead to an unproductive workplace. So, then, how do you increase engagement among employees?
5 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged
1. Provide the Right Tools
Consider this scenario: you ask an employee to keep track of some important metric during the course of a set time frame. To do so, they use Excel. While the platform is certainly able to do what the employee needs, it becomes a hassle for them.
They soon discover that there's software made specifically for what they're doing, but they're turned down when asked to purchase it. Barring financial restraints, it would be more productive in the end to provide this tool for the employee. They can keep better track of the information requested and perhaps give them more insight into the metrics they've been asked to track. In this way, the employee would become more engaged with the task they've been given, and help the business better achieve its goals.
2. Give Individual Attention
Nobody likes to just be one of the pack, another face in the crowd. One hurdle many larger organizations face is giving individual attention to employees. This doesn't necessarily mean meeting with them one-on-one, but understanding each employee's strengths and weaknesses, and creating a path that suits their specific likes or dislikes. You can do so through short questionnaires or surveys. For example, you might find that an employee enjoys teaching others and they thrive when asked to provide training for new colleagues.
3. Give Meaning to Their Work
Everyone wants to take pride in the results of their contributions. An engaged employee feels that the work they do has value beyond just adding to the bottom line. It's important to help employees see that value, to show them how even the smallest of tasks contribute to the success of the company. Here are some ideas to help create meaning:
- Create goals and challenge employees to meet them
- Let them find ways to improve a particular process
- Involve them in important decisions as they relate to their function
4. Get More Social
At the heart of engaged employees is an emotional connection to their workplace. Employees should be happy and proud of their organization. One way to foster this type of connection is to create a break room that encourages employees to mix and mingle. Provide more than just vending machines and some hard chairs, like interesting art or even some games.
Another option is to create shared interest events such as team-building exercises. LinkedIn, for example, offers "In Days," where employees come together once a month over a shared theme to invest in themselves, the company, and the world. This type of activity allows everyone to connect with each other, from upper management to the newest employees.
5. Improve Workplace Culture
The ultimate goal is to create a culture where employees want to work. A place where they're excited to be. Job seeker's today actively pursue employment with organizations that fit their cultural needs, so much that the interview process nowadays isn't one-sided--the company is interviewed as much as the prospective employee. This change helps create a more engaging place to work, as it leads to a mutually beneficial relationship between organizations and employees.
Employees want to work in a place where they feel valued and are excited to be. Investing in them fosters loyalty and a willingness to do their best. In other words, it helps increase workplace engagement which improves productivity.