Pointing fingers at HR for low employee engagement is downright unfair. Human Resources professionals are smart, strategic, and efficient and have the best understanding of what employees crave for a better work experience. But, they’re also overloaded and under-supported. If the C-Suite depends on them alone to drive culture and engagement, it will always be an uphill battle.

With the support of the entire company leadership, the smarties in HR can improve low employee engagement scores and go from cost center to money making powerhouse.

When we delegate the creation, care and feeding of our organizations’ culture to HR, we’re saying “that’s not my job.” And that’s just wrong. To be clear, culture is everyone’s job. Not just HR. Not just the C-Suite. Not just the senior leadership. And that’s why we’re not getting the job done, as the Gallup data clearly shows.

China Gorman

So, what can executive leaders do to better reinforce the strong business case for employee engagement? How can they support HR and improve company culture, engagement, and overall business performance? They can start by taking a step back to rethink what leads to employee engagement. By the way, it’s not more ping pong tables, cash, or beer.

What Do Employees Want If Not More Beer?

What employees want is to feel connected. They want meaningful work. They need to know that they’re making an impact. They also want to feel appreciated.

True. Most companies already invest in a variety of employee engagement solutions (wellness, learning & development, CSR, rewards, recognition, perks, incentives, benefits, compensation…), and in fact, the investment in these programs has reached an all time high. Like $BILLIONS high!

Yet, improvements in overall employee engagement have been growing at a snail’s pace for nearly 15 years. Check out these alarming statistics on employee engagement for more deets.

When it comes to employee engagement, there’s no secret technique used by an organization that leads to its success. However, understanding what fuels employee engagement based on higher level human needs will serve as a foundation to connect and amplify the impact of all your employee engagement programs. With those human needs in mind, organizations see improvements in year over year employee engagement scores. Glassdoor review scores go up too.

What Happens When Engagement is Done Right?

When a company culture is fully realized, employees bring their full selves to work. They feel connected to your core values and one another. They feel empowered to contribute in a way that has exponential impact.

Take Return Path. After matching employee engagement efforts to employee needs, they not only reduced how much they spend on their rewards and recognition system, but they also experienced a 10% increase in a year-over-year engagement score.

Then there’s Bazaarvoice. By adding options for employees to connect with one another through health and wellness as well as by incentivizing healthy behaviors, they’re influencing healthcare premium costs. They also offered different types of rewards for employees to encourage volunteerism and community involvement.

Rockfish Digital shifted from an infrequent, top-down approach to feedback toward a daily, peer-to-peer approach. In one year, they experienced a 29% drop in turnover and an improvement in overall company performance. These developments led to an estimated turnover cost savings of $130,000. See the study conducted by San Francisco State University that compared the impact peer-to-peer social recognition software had on employee performance.

5 Things the C-Suite Can Do

1. Employees want accurate, meaningful, and timely feedback. More than cash-based rewards and bonuses, public reinforcement and recognition communicates to employees that their work matters and they’re making a difference.

2. When it comes to constructive feedback, companies are shifting away from traditional annual performance reviews and towards more frequent, one-on-one coaching moments. The C-Suite can support and reinforce HR efforts to create a culture of continuous feedback. And, they can set expectations for open communication with managers AND employees.

3. Employees want to connect with their bosses and peers. Consider enhancing your current reward and recognition system with shared experience rewards like group yoga, volunteer days, or team learning experiences.

4. Take it a step further and integrate employee needs into your employee incentives programs. Offer small “behavior bonuses” that give employees a choice on how they want to engage. These little incentives encourage healthy behaviors that matter to both the employees and to the organization’s bottom line. Examples include a bonus for getting an annual health screening, completing training courses, a week without a safety incident, or mentoring another employee.

5. The C-Suite can also start looking at company values as a strategic advantage and integrate them across the business and programs, so they’re part of the organization’s day-to-day and tied to key performance goals.

Efforts to improve low employee engagement can have an enormous impact on the bottom line and overall company performance. Check out our guide on why employee engagement matters to CEOs for more ROI metrics.

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Tim Ryan