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Best employee engagement programs used by top companies

Your staff can't be thought of in the same ways as your products or systems. They aren't machines that can be given a command and just run with it for eternity. They are real people that need to be nurtured and respected if you want to get the most out of them. Failure to do so can lead to a demotivated workforce that's inefficient and prone to high turnover. An excellent way to ensure you get the best out of your staff are employee engagement programs. This article will explain exactly what these programs are and how you can use them to get the most out of your team.


What is employee engagement?


Employee engagement refers to the level of commitment a person feels towards their employer.  It's usually expressed in terms of employee satisfaction and employee loyalty. A highly engaged employee is one who feels valued by their employer, is inspired to go above and beyond for the business through their own volition. The key here is that engagement cannot be coerced out of the person, it has to be inspired.


Why does it matter?


The difference between an engaged employee and a disengaged employee can be the difference between success and failure for a business. And this difference is seen across all areas, not just pure productivity. Engaged workers are less likely to be injured at work, less likely to take time off sick and less likely to quit.
 
Your workforce is also the core of your company culture, so it doesn't matter how nice your office looks, how cool your break room is or how many bean bag chairs you own; if your employees are disengaged, your company culture will be toxic.


What is an employees engagement program?


Employee engagement programs are designed to stimulate employee motivation, morale, and enthusiasm. They typically involve activities such as employee recognition, competitions, rewards and incentives to reward staff for exceptional performance. These programs are tailored to meet the specific needs of the business and are designed to increase employee satisfaction, employee loyalty and productivity.
 
Now, it's important to understand that engagement programs for employees can't simply be bought. Providing benefits for employees is a great thing but that's not the same as an employee engagement program. To create real engagement, you need to take a holistic approach that looks at employee communication, employee development, employee recognition and more.


13 Employee engagement programs you can implement


There are a number of different engagement strategies you can employ, but here are some of the top employee engagement programs used by the most successful companies.


1) Coaching

If you want your staff to really invest in your business, then it's important that your business invests in them too. Coaching sessions should be focused entirely on the employee's development and should not be conflated with training which is all about the company.
 
The person should walk away from these sessions feeling that they got value out of them personally.


2) Employee appreciation

Recognizing employees for the work they do is an excellent way to ensure employee engagement. You could give out awards or rewards, hold employee appreciation events or even just write notes to employees acknowledging the work they do and how they contribute to the team.


3) Employee surveys

The only way to really understand employee sentiment is to ask them directly. Through employee surveys you can gain a real insight into employee engagement levels, and use that data to inform employee engagement strategies.


4) Provide feedback

It doesn't matter how much of a self-starter an employee is, without regular feedback, it's easy to become confused, lost and ultimately disengaged.
 
A big mistake that many managers make is only providing feedback when there is an issue. If an employee only hears from their manager when things are going wrong then they will quickly start to associate contact with management as a negative. People won't trust their managers and will become disengaged.


5) Encourage employee ownership

Giving employees autonomy to make decisions and taking the time to listen to their ideas can make all the difference when it comes to employee engagement.
 
By encouraging employees to take ownership of their work, you're allowing them to show off their skills and take pride in their work. You also create a real sense of "skin in the game". Workers will be working on their own projects rather than just something handed down to them by the company.
 
This creates an opportunity to engage in employee appreciation and employee recognition.


6) Flexible working

The pandemic smashed the preconceived notions that we always need to be in the office to get any work done. Many employees now expect some level of flexible working and it would be wise to grant this to them.
 
Again, this is not a benefit or bribe to convince them to work harder. Instead, this  is a show of trust and respect for your worker's time. You are taking the time to understand employee preferences and showing them that you value them as people, not just workers.


7) Create leadership access channels

A chain of command is not a one way road. If an employee needs to speak with their manager then it should be easy for them to do so. Having access channels and open communication between employees and leadership is essential for employee engagement.
 
This could be done in the form of office hours or perhaps a weekly forum. It doesn't need to be a constant open door policy, but it is vital that workers have regular access to leadership.
 
As a way to get employees to buy into the company culture, these communication channels don't necessarily need to be focused purely on work. These sessions can also involve coaching and leadership seminars that implicitly preach the values and mission of the business.


8) Fix the onboarding process

The first weeks and months of a worker's experience with your business are probably the most important. This is when a person makes their mind up about the company they have joined and will likely define the relationship between the worker and the business.
 
This means that everything from training to cultural immersion needs to be done as best as possible. It is imperative that onboarding is done well or employee engagement might never happen at all. It's much harder to get buy-in from a jaded employee than a fresh faced one.


9) Create a transparent work environment

It's next to impossible to care about something you don't understand. If an employee feels they are nothing more than a cog in a machine, how can they be expected to really engage in their work?
 
An environment that's transparent and honest will help employees understand their role in the company. They should be aware of what's going on, why certain projects are being done and how their role fits into the company.


10) Create a safe work environment

All the other ideas we've explored are essentially pointless if you have a toxic environment. People need to feel safe and comfortable in their work environment.
 
This means having employee support programs in place, as well as making sure there is zero tolerance for bullying and harassment. People need to be able to trust each other and the company in order for employee engagement programs to work.


11) Put your values to the forefront

Far too many businesses treat values as some kind of lip service that they are expected to have, but the reality is people can see right through that. You need to be honest about your values and really show that they mean something.
 
For example, if the environment is part of your mission statement, then there's a good chance that candidates may join because they share the same values. You cannot then turn around and refuse to do any recycling because it's inconvenient. This hypocrisy of your company values will instantly turn workers off.
 
Instead, you need to put your values to the forefront, both in employee engagement programs and in the day to day operation of the business.


12) Provide perks

Including things like pizza on Fridays or free gym membership may not seem that important, but in reality, they are the cherry on top of employee engagement programs.
 
People don't necessarily expect them, but when businesses provide these little extras it can really hammer home the idea that employee engagement is important. It's also a great way to show your employees that their contribution and hard work are appreciated.
 
Just remember that perks should not be a substitute for real compensation. If your competitors are offering a better compensation or benefits package, then no amount of morning yoga is going to sway employee engagement in the long run.


13) Empower employee led initiatives

Finally, if you want to really engage your employees, then you need to allow them to take leadership roles.
 
This could be things like employee led workshops or committees that determine different aspects of company initiatives. It could even be something as basic as giving workers the opportunity to suggest and vote on ideas to improve employee engagement.


Summary

A business that is able to engage their employees will always have an x-factor that their competitors can only dream of. It leads to better productivity, lower turnover and an all around happier environment.
 
The key to employee engagement is to create an environment where people feel safe, empowered, appreciated and understand their role. This can be achieved through employee engagement programs that focus on communication, transparency, values and employee-led initiatives.

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