Employee engagement is defined as a measure of how committed an employee feels to their organization; how much they identify with their organization; how satisfied they feel with their job; and how energized they feel in their work. There is no doubt that employers benefit in many ways from high levels of employee engagement, while disengagement not only negatively impacts individual workers, but can easily spread.
But, who is responsible for employee engagement?
It would be a mistake for employers to believe that employees are responsible for their own engagement. Engagement is a direct reflection of how connected the employees feel to the business, and therefore, the employer must take a proactive role in building employee engagement.
This starts with the direct supervisor and the quality of their communications with their frontline team.
One of the most important steps that a company can take is to ensure that supervisors are having weekly check-ins with their direct reports.
Building engagement requires forming a real human connection. Team meetings or mass emails are too impersonal. Using such disconnected means of communication makes it too easy for barely engaged or disengaged employees to slip through the cracks. These methods also leave naturally introverted employees an easy way to avoid expressing their needs, thus making them more likely to slide toward disengagement.
Equally, managers or HR leaders should strive to use accessible communication methods.
Using communications systems that require employees to take an action to log in or even just visit an intranet hub, for example, are not inclusive and can be too easy to avoid. We have found through our years of experience with the frontline that text is still by far the best means of communicating with the frontline. To begin with, your text messages are much more likely to be read. On average, text messages have a 98% open rate and are typically read within 3 minutes of being received. We also know that frontline employees are typically reluctant to download apps. Add to that the fact that many frontline workers still use flip phones, and it becomes clear that text is still the most inclusive, reliable way of reaching this group.
Although we’re clearly biased, we think the best solution is to have frontline supervisors utilize goHappy’s texting tools to communicate easily and effectively with employees. Supervisors can use the system to send notes of encouragement, reminders of company values and goals, or to gauge how happy employees are and what unmet needs they might be experiencing. Many of these tasks can even be automated.
Clearly communicating expectations goes a long way.
Gallup found that the largest decline in specific engagement elements over the last few years were in the following areas:
- clarity of expectations
- connection to the mission or purpose of the company
- opportunities to learn and grow
- opportunities to do what employees do best
It’s difficult for any employee to succeed if they do not understand what is expected of them or how they can improve. Supervisors who directly communicate things like expectations or opportunities for additional training can help minimize this effect.
Arguably, the most important factor: Make sure your frontline feels valued and cared for. Another area in which Gallup reported a decline was employees feeling cared about at work. According to goHappy’s Engagement Model and the Leadership Actions it includes, helping employees feel valued and cared for is one of the most important things a leader can do for their frontline, and there are simple ways to succeed here.
Employees who receive texts sent directly from their supervisor will naturally feel more connection to the company. If supervisors use the tools at their disposal to do things like wish employees well on their birthday or work anniversary, or even use some of the goHappy provided templates for holidays, the employees will also be more likely to feel cared about.
Find ways to live out the company’s mission or purpose in your communication with employees.
Feeling a connection to a company’s mission or purpose is another area where engagement fell short in Gallup’s research, but connection to purpose plays a key roll in frontline engagement. Incorporating mission or purpose into communications will help them employees connect to it more deeply and keep them more motivated. This doesn’t need to take long or be especially deep. For example, instead of simply providing the date of an available training, explain how the training will benefit the employee. Help them feel that the company is interested in their well-being, not just in their productivity.
Finally, make sure you’re making a personal connection.
Your frontline needs to understand that there are real humans behind the business. Be sure that communications are not only operational messages. Operational information exchange is important to your business and your employees’ success, but it will have minimal effect on increasing employee engagement if it’s not paired with authentic and personal outreach.
Research shows that engaged employees show an increase in productivity as well as a host of other benefits. Increasing employee engagement through direct communication from supervisors that reflects care will naturally lead to measurable business benefits.
Though much of these engagement tasks fall to frontline supervisors, frontline employee engagement is an effort that deserves support across a company’s leadership. goHappy helps leadership teams at companies like Taco Bell, Taziki’s, and Hand & Stone Spas support frontline supervisors with the tools they need to efficiently and effectively succeed in these areas. Let us know if we can help you do the same.