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Six ways to Engage Better with your Employees

There’s been a lot of talk lately about disengagement. Quiet quitting is just a recent buzzword for a more endemic problem.

In Australia, only one in five people are engaged at work. Of the rest, 13% are actively disengaged, whilst the majority (67%) are simply not engaged.

Disengagement costs account for 9% of GDP globally. Productivity is also declining – 4.6% in Australia over the last 12 months. And almost half of us (48%) are stressed at work, higher than the global average.

All this has 40% of Australians actively looking for work or considering other opportunities. With a tight labour market, 52% of employees believe now is the best time to find a job.

The solution is better leadership.

Caring for one’s people must be a priority for managers. It requires genuine empathy and an authentic investment of time and energy. You don’t hire a hand, the whole person comes to work. They are not a resource or a talent – they are a human being. Sadly, we are ignoring this primary responsibility. Only 43% believe their supervisor or someone at work seems to care about them as a person.

We start with providing employees with a basic understanding of their Roles, Responsibilities and Results (see earlier article – and giving them the necessary resources to do the job. Yet, Gallop reports only 51% of employees know what is expected of them at work, and just 40% have the material and equipment to do it.

A manager is responsible for maximising an individual’s strengths and complementing their weaknesses through other team members. Again, managers are failing in this fundamental function, with a low 37% of employees reporting that they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.

Our work in people engagement focuses on six key areas: Reward, Recognition, Voice, Choice, Learning, and Legacy.

With increased interest rates and cost of living expenses, reward and remuneration must not be ignored. Whilst it is not the only factor, where it is below an acceptable threshold, people will quit. The cost of recruitment, onboarding, training and assimilation may be much higher than reaching a sustainable pay balance. Retaining a good and performing employee is always preferable to recruiting a new one.

In our research, recognition in Australia is a very high engagement factor. Providing authentic, frequent and specific feedback is critical to happy employees. It gives them a sense of satisfaction and improves performance. It also encourages desired behaviours. It is also vital in articulating and discouraging undesired behaviours.
Regrettably, we are not doing this enough. Only 31% of employees receive regular recognition or praise for doing good work.

Giving employees an avenue to share their views and voice their opinions is another crucial driver. Being heard is seen as being valued. It tells people they are part of the team. According to Gallop, most employees are ignored, with 70% feeling that their opinions don’t seem to count.

The pandemic and accelerated digitisation have transformed the way we work and contribute. This has put a greater emphasis on how people perform and get the job done. Some like to follow instructions and systems, whilst others want to achieve the same outcome on their terms. Understanding the difference and agreeing on “how” is more important than ever before.

Most of us want to be challenged at work. Failure to learn and improve constantly can render individuals and organisations redundant in an ever-changing world. Managers must devote time to each of their employee’s progress. Almost 70% of employees have not had this conversation in the preceding six months, and only 34% acknowledge that someone at work encouraged their development or even had the opportunity to learn and grow.

Finally, mission and purpose at work are more important than ever. People want to be part of something significant. They want meaning from work, but only a third of all employees feel this way.
Many individuals are willing to sacrifice the other five engagement factors if their values align with the organisation’s vision. It is why we have over four million volunteers in Australia.

Whilst the latest Gallup Global Workplace 2023 report paints a concerning picture, the good news is that it provides tremendous opportunities for managers to attract, retain and empower good employees with a renewed focus on how they engage with their people.

If you are unsure how to start this journey, our Scout Survey and People Engagement Program may be worth considering. Please reach out if this is of interest.

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