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5 ways to boost employee engagement

What percentage of your employees are “engaged”? Take a guess. A 2011 study of organizations worldwide found that only 31 percent of employees qualify as engaged. This represents a staggering loss for companies: Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost more than $300 billion in lost productivity. Disengaged employees can hurt morale and erode the organization’s bottom line. In contrast, engaged employees are more profitable, more customer-focused and easier to retain.

Employee engagement is defined as the emotional and intellectual commitment of an employee to the organization. Here are five simple, research-based ways to engage your employees:

  1. Connect employees with the people they serve. One five-minute interaction with individuals who benefit from the company’s products and services can produce up to a 500 percent boost in employee productivity. Interaction increases empathy for customers, motivating employees to do a better job serving them. For example, attaching a photo of the patient to an X-ray enhances radiologists’ effort and accuracy, yielding 46 percent improvements in diagnostic findings.
  2. Get personal. Employees who know their manager well “as a person” are more likely to be engaged. In North America, getting to know employees on personal level can boost employee engagement by 11 percent. Managers often believe traditional managerial skills such as effective delegation of assignments or providing regular feedback will raise engagement levels -- but research shows that building personal relationships is even more effective.
  3. Allow employees to help colleagues via employee support programs. Employees who support co-workers in need experience increased commitment to the organization. Employee-support programs (e.g. counseling services or financial grants) provide employees with opportunities to help each other. To achieve the engagement benefits of these programs, organizations need to let employees know how they can contribute, demonstrate the program’s credibility and highlight the organizations' contributions.
  4. Commit to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Research shows that employees who are satisfied with the organization’s commitment to social and environmental responsibilities demonstrate more commitment, engagement and productivity. In fact, when employees are positive about their employer’s commitment to CSR, engagement across the company rises: In the same study, engagement spiked to 86 percent when employees had positive feelings about the company’s CSR, compared with just 37 percent for employees who harbored negative feelings about it.
  5. Invest in workplace wellness. Employer-sponsored programs that support employees in adopting behaviors that reduce their health risks and improve their quality of life -- also known as wellness programs -- raise engagement levels and directly impact the bottom line. For instance, Johnson & Johnson saw returns of $2.71 for every dollar spent on wellness programs.

Try one or more of these strategies to boost your employee engagement.

Retrieved from Network for Business Sustainability. Photo of charismatic manager courtesy of wavebreakmedia ltd via Shutterstock.

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