HR & Management

Five steps for creating engaged employees

7 min read

27 January 2016

Every business should understand the importance of employee engagement, so why are companies still only managing to meet the most basic needs of people?

As described in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, individual needs range from simple to complex, and the journey to fulfilment has absolute parallels with employee engagement in the workplace. Companies that provide the support employees need to feel respected and appreciated can boost self-esteem and unlock their full potential. In Maslow’s hierarchy this is referred to as achieving ‘self-actualisation’ where the individual is creative, seeks learning and embraces challenges – a perfect description of a highly engaged employee.

Over 70 years after Maslow created the theory, engagement is still the number one problem facing companies and poor communication is costing businesses £16,000 per employee. Until companies can engage staff, bosses will be stuck at the bottom of the hierarchy – providing economic safety, but failing to create highly engaged staff and consequently employee retention.

It’s time for bosses to start fully utilising the tools at their disposal and build strategies that combine established theory and modern tech to engage employees.

(1) Reward people based on behaviours and results

Team lunches and Friday night drinks do not celebrate individual success. If rewards are generic, employees won’t feel they are progressing on their personal path to fulfilment. Companies must therefore implement a system of instant recognition and reward, where each achievement is acknowledged in a unique way.

With personalised and meaningful rewards, companies can make employees feel valued — this could include offering exclusive discounts for their favourite shops or taking tips from the US and holding reviews for athletic employees in dance studios. Opting to deliver personal rewards via real-time digital platforms will also create an immediate association between good performance and positive outcomes that employees will be keen to repeat.

How to engage workers:

(2) Implement peer-to-peer recognition 

Gaining the respect of others is vital for strong self-esteem, which makes establishing a peer-to-peer recognition system the surest way to keep confidence high. By enabling employees to recognise each other, companies can create a culture of mutual admiration and support, where the need for appreciation is constantly met.

Not only will this remove negative associations with feedback, it will also encourage employees to use it as a basis for development – boosting performance levels. An interactive digital platform that includes management personnel will also help employees to feel they are achieving higher recognition, as well as spotlighting top performers.

(3) Make company communication social 

It’s hard to develop meaningful relationships during office hours where deadlines are tight and time is limited. But the need for a sense of community and social bonding is strong; employees need a space they can call their own and it cannot be exclusionary, like email.

Social tools have the power to enhance productivity, not just by saving time but also by giving employees a platform they can take over, manage, and grow. Providing a place to plan activities, such as work events or socials, will create an ongoing dialogue between employees that is transparent and fun – drawing them together and tying work to the need for social fulfilment.

(4) Ensure recognition is easy and frequent

The fewer barriers there are to use, the more employees are likely to interact with company communication platforms, which makes accessibility crucial. Recognition and social tools should therefore be available for use whenever, wherever and via any device – which in most cases means mobile.

Last year, UK adults spent over two hours each day using their mobile devices, a shift that saw mobile devices overtake desktop for the first time. This makes mobile the most personal means of technology with which companies can reach employees and deliver messages that are fast, as well as convenient.

(5) Create, embed and grow your company culture 

A shared vision between a company and its employees will ensure the workforce is committed to securing business success and fully engaged in present activity. Clear and regular communication of company goals – and current levels of achievement – will enable employees to track and identify with business progress.

This can be achieved by posting updates to digital platforms that highlight individual excellence; publicly acknowledging great performers who have helped to realise goals that align with the businesses’ desired company culture. With greater unity between employees and company ambitions, there will be a stronger drive to ensure they are achieved, improving both loyalty and retention.

To be seen as more than simply the provider of economic stability, companies must help employees fulfil their potential. Through a combination of digital channels and established theory, businesses can achieve a deep and sustainable level of employee engagement, where recognition, reward and social interaction continuously meet employee needs.

While the journey towards true engagement – or self-actualisation – is ongoing, providing the tools employees need to get there will give them a powerful reason to stay and work to the best of their ability, thus enhancing retention, capability, and revenue.

When it comes to garnering commitment and engagement from staff, however, there is one crucial thing that leaders need to demonstrate – respect.

Jamie True is CEO and founder at WorkAngel.