Dealing with the problem of disengagement in the workplace is one of the greatest workplace challenges of the 21st century and it doesn’t have a clearly defined solution. A Gallup poll in 2014 revealed that the percent of engaged employees hovered around 31.5 percent. That means, according to the poll, that 68.5 percent of employees are either not engaged or are actively disengaged.
Here’s the important thing about those numbers: According to Gallup, engaged employees are “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” Gallup says it bases the categorization of employees as engaged or not engaged on their responses to key workplace elements found to predict important organizational performance outcomes. In other words, far from being an irrelevant academic or “feel-good” metric, engagement makes a bottom-line difference.
There are several ways to increase employee motivation and keep engagement levels high. Let’s start with an example.
Mike recently started a position as a technology trainer after switching careers from teaching chemistry. While Mike is strong in many training skills, he needs to strengthen his technology and graphic design skills.
Mike’s manager encourages him to check out Canva Design School to strengthen his graphic design skills. His manager sets a short-term goal for Mike to finish several tutorials in two weeks. Mike is surprised that he can get free and extensive resources to build his skills. He’s excited that he’s able to immediately develop his skill on the job so he immediately gets busy.
Mike finishes the training requirements and his manager recognizes Mike’s accomplishments by awarding a badge that he can proudly display on LinkedIn.
Mike starts his new job pleased with the recognition he received from his accomplishments. Mike is so pleased that he wants to increase his skills more. He takes additional Canva Design School tutorials outside his regular work day.
The company benefits in several ways by motivating Mike with recognition and professional development.
Mike’s story points out a few of the benefits of helping employees and enabling their career growth. In this article, we offer ideas and practical advice on how you can engage employees and help them remain satisfied in their position.
Help employees find their way
You have a lot of responsibilities as a leader, but arguably the most important part of leading is creating a great work environment. Keeping employees engaged is not an easy task—here are a few methods to support employee engagement.
Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation
Focusing on both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors is essential for any leader.
Intrinsic motivation deals with what matters most to employees. This might be personal enjoyment, self-worth, individual career-goal satisfaction, or the attainment of personal goals.
Extrinsic motivators typically aren’t as powerful and can be hit or miss, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Extrinsic motivators are external rewards, recognition, promotions, and public praise that leaders can provide.
Figure out what motivates
A leader can motivate employees by building on their personal intrinsic motivators, but first she needs to know what matters to her employees. This may seem simple, but the best way to determine intrinsic motivation factors is to ask employees.
- What do you want?
- What do you need?
- What matters most to you in your job?
Asking these questions may uncover what you as a leader can do to empower employees to stay motivated and succeed in their work.
Extrinsic motivators are somewhat easier to create. They may be as simple as awarding a digital badge for employees to show off. There are websites, such as Credly, that allow you to award badges to employees that they can display on LinkedIn or within their email signatures to show their accomplishments.
Professional development is typically a challenge. With an expanding workload, it becomes increasingly challenging to dedicate an hour here and there to learn something new, or think about work in a different way (you know—innovate). Setting short term goals that are manageable and easy to achieve can keep engagement levels high. Keep in mind that acknowledging employee’s efforts is one way to maintain their engagement level and build their confidence.
Give employees the opportunity for professional development. If you’re seeing any signs of lack of engagement, talk to them about expanding their career opportunities by earning additional credentials. Many opportunities exist to get and keep employees motivated in their job. For instance, many organizations will contribute money to lessen the financial burden of getting a credential, or perhaps pay for a local conference.
There are many online resources that can provide the professional development needed to engage employees. Finding the right balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators is important when exploring professional development options. It’s also necessary to determine what individuals want and what benefits the workplace.
When employees learn new skills that are easily transferrable to their work environment, they want to implement their new skill set. This new desire to practice their skills is a step in the right direction for both employee engagement and workplace improvements.
Promotion and looking ahead
What motivates employees is often no different than what motivates any other group, so it’s no surprise that what de-motivates them is not much different.
A TinyHR study revealed that over 66 percent of employees feel they don’t have strong opportunities for growth in the workplace.
One possible option you have is to work with HR to open upward mobility options for employees. Clear a path for them. Make sure they know what that path is, and employees will feel engaged and motivated to take the path.
A big part of engagement in the workplace relates to having somewhere to go: a job position to grow into or work towards. There’s nothing more motivating than the chance to move up, to earn that promotion you’ve been working so hard for.
Employees are motivated by different things, so it’s hard to put your finger on just what will motivate them. If you’re not sure what will motivate your employees, ask! While this isn’t the easiest way to approach the situation for you, it will be the most effective and can get you the best information (and maybe a bit more respect too!).
Losing employees is expensive
As a leader in your organization, second only to making sure employees are engaged is being a good steward of resources.
When talking in terms of sales and marketing for IT companies, churn rate (or churn) is a term that often comes up. The term also applies to employee turnover rate. When speaking in terms of employees, churn rate is the annual rate in which employees leave their job.
The best way to be a good steward of resources is to ensure that employees are engaged and work long term in their positions. According to a study performed by the Center for American Progress, the cost of losing an employee is around 20 percent of their annual salary. That means an employee making $75,000 a year would cost about $15,000 to replace.
With costs like these to replace an employee, it becomes evident why it’s so important to keep employees engaged. Luckily, employee engagement and being a good steward of resources fit together well because having engaged employees also means they are less likely to leave, therefore saving the organization a lot of money.
Employee engagement is low in many organizations, but strong leaders can create positive changes. Leading a team of disengaged employees is not an easy task, so part of a leader's role is to make sure employees remain engaged.
The first step to discovering how to engage your employees is to figure out what motivates them. What balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators should you strike? Asking your employees questions about what they want and need from their career is a simple and effective way to learn more.
Equipped with more information about employees, you have many opportunities. One of the best opportunities is to make sure employees participate in as much professional development as possible. Using professional development to reach a goal is important.
Next, provide a clear career path for employees. Where is their professional career bringing them on the next step? What do they have to achieve to get there?
As a leader, you have the difficult task of keeping your professionals engaged. If you’re able to motivate them and keep them engaged in their job then you can save your organization a significant amount of money by reducing employee churn rates.
Get out there
Schedule a meeting with your employees to talk about what they need from their job, and what they hope to get out of it in the near and distant future.
Get a clear picture of each employee’s professional story—past, present, and future. It’s your responsibility to help them build the future career they want.