It’s good news that unemployment in the UK continues to fall. In fact, according to a Guardian report, the jobless rate dropped to 6.6% in the three months to April, reaching a level last seen in January 2009. “Britain is bouncing back”, according to chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.
But it’s not all good news. The same Guardian report also found that Britain’s workers have been squeezed by a dramatic slowdown in pay growth, according to official figures. This means that pay packets are still stretched to their limit and many employees are still worse off than they were five years ago.
So what does this mean for morale? Does an increase in employment opportunities as the economy grows increase morale? Does it decrease morale for those who where never unemployed? And, as wages stagnate how do we keep employees engaged without further financial reward?
We need to keep both existing and new employees motivated in their jobs, and engaged with the organisation they work for.
The answer lies in developing an employee engagement strategy. This involves a commitment to ensuring that your staff feel appreciated, engaged and motivated. So how do you achieve that?
To give your staff a sense of pride in their job, and in the organisation they work for, you need to create a culture that genuinely encourages supportiveness and inclusiveness.
The main way to achieve this is through communication. Not just from the leadership team but from everyone. Leaders and managers should be informing employees about what is happening in the business, and involve all staff levels in helping the organisation achieve its goals. Employees need to communicate their achievements upwards, so that managers and leaders can inform the rest of the organisation.
Organisations can also include a flexible approach to working, display praise letters from customers in a prominent position and make time for fun, such as a company picnic.
Appreciation and recognition
Employees want to be appreciated, and love receiving recognition for a job well done. It’s important to reward effort as well as success. The key to getting recognition right is to make it specific: rather than just say ‘thanks for all your hard work’, tell them what they did and the impact it had. By making it specific you’re making it genuine.
Daniel Pink surmised in a TED Talk that traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think they are. So it’s time to think outside the box when it comes to employee appreciation and recognition. Free lunches, the best chair in the office or a free pass for a day off to use as and when they like.
Mentoring and development
Maximise career opportunities, through mentoring and development. This will help individuals connect with other members of the organisation, who they may not otherwise have contact with. This will encourage them to think outside of their stated role.
Team up an experienced employee (mentor) with a less experienced employee, in order to guide that person’s development. Mentoring can involve helping the employee improve and develop their current role; plan and implement strategies to help them meet their career aspirations; and support their professional development, by assisting with meeting connections, and sharing their experiences.
Give your employees the status they crave. By giving them authority, and backing this up with support, you can increase motivation and engagement. Speak to your employees about how this could be achieved on an individual basis. For some it might be about going out to meet customers rather than being stuck in the office; for others it might be about being able to make decision on aspects of their job, without having to refer everything to their manager.
Putting into practice an employee engagement program is a long-term strategy, that starts with demonstrating a sense of caring about employees from the organisation’s leaders. Get it right and it will undoubtedly reap the rewards for your organisation, with increased employee loyalty, reduced staff attrition, improved motivation and increased productivity. Not to mention the effects this will have on your bottom line.