December 19, 2018
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Katie Crowley

The truth about employee engagement

How programs to boost productivity and retention often go awry.

According to an article by the Harvard Business Review, organizations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on employee engagement programs for little in return. While programs are initiated with vigor, the Harvard researchers found that the eventual petering out of engagement initiatives causes a lull in employee morale, and eventually reveals a form of fraudulent corporate culture. With quick-use programs, like a single outing to a movie, or a BBQ, engagement peaks. But without serious sustainment, engagement falls rapidly. Perks like those mentioned above are like a fast-acting drug for employee engagement. It peaks and employees are happy, but as it continues they need more and more to sustain that level of initial engagement. So, how do we fix this multi-million dollar problem? Well, the short answer is Zestful. For a longer answer, keep reading.

What is Employee Engagement?

To tackle the above problem, you first have to understand what employee engagement is and why it matters (or should matter) to your company. As Kevin Kruse of Forbes writes, “employee engagement does not mean employee happiness.” And while he goes on to say there can certainly be some overlap between happiness and engagement, a happy employee isn’t necessarily productive, where an engaged employee has “an emotional commitment […to] the organization and its goals.” Simply put, an engaged employee actually cares about the work they do.

Again, according to Kruse, the elusive engaged employee leads to better service, increased sales, higher levels of profit, and higher shareholder returns. In fact engaged employees are so effective that, according to Towers Perrin, research companies with engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins.

So, what to do about your employee engagement blues?

If you’re having trouble with engaging your employees, take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. We can According to the most recent Gallup poll, only 32% of employees are engaged in the work they do, with the majority (50.8%) not engaged, and a troubling 17.2 % actively disengaged. But all problems have a solution, and employee engagement is no different.

In a recent post, we discussed how to build a lasting corporate culture. And, much like culture, employee engagement should start with your values. The easiest way to improve engagement is to create a company or culture of which your employees can be proud. So, step one in your quest to regain employee engagement is:

  1. Define your values, and stick with them: Culture and values are not lightweight promises to your employees. If you’re hoping to improve your employee engagement, you need to define your values and culture with gusto. That means, getting your employees involved in defining your values, and building a company that reflects them.
  2. No more employee engagement b-12 shots: As the Harvard Business Review revealed, the sporadic employee outing can actually be more damaging to morale than none at all. If your employees recognize a trend of perks only when morale is low, they begin to feel the reward is coming too late. Instead, keep engagement high and stable, with built-in activities. Commit to a weekly happy hour, or monthly team outings. Your engagement calendar should be scheduled as rigidly as any other meeting in your workplace.
  3. The right activities for the right people: Rewards can only improve employee engagement if you employees actually see value in them. Not all activities are one-size-fits-all, so when attempting to keep your employees engaged offer them choice in their selection, and take into account that different employees, want different things.
  4. Stories over stuff: there have been countless studies on the value of experiences over things, and the proof applies to your workforce as well. Instead of the memorable placard, the stale cake and employee of the month, keep your employees feeling appreciated, and engaged, with experience-based activities. That means: trips to the bowling alley, ceramics classes, or drinks out with the whole team.
  5. Finally, to get over your employee engagement hump, you need to invest money in the right places. Again, according to the Harvard Business Review, when “organizations make real gains [in employee engagement] when they’re thinking longer-term. They’re going beyond what engagement scores are telling them to do in the moment and redesigning employee experience, creating a place where people want, not just need, to work each day.”  

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to employee engagement, but a good starting place is by offering your employees consistent experiential outings. In fact, “compared with other companies, the experiential organizations had more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue.” They also outperformed A&P 500, the NASDAQ, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work by significant margins.

Research shows that there is a substantial ROI for companies that invest in employee experiences long-term rather than sporadic employee engagement. And that’s the long answer.

Zestful makes it easy for you to book experiential team activities on a reliable basis for any of your employees. With a multitude of offerings, and available in most states, Zestful can help you improve employee engagement while also teaching you the subtle art of terrarium making. We’re here to help take the stress out of all the data, and miscellaneous reports, and finally make employee engagement easy.

To get started with Zestful, create a free account here. Otherwise, stay up to date with all Zestful news by following us here or as @getzestful on any of the social media sites.