Rebecca Martin
VP, Culture & Talent
Beehive Strategic Communication

Numerous studies – along with basic common sense – say that a strong workplace culture creates high levels of employee engagement. High levels of employee engagement have a ripple effect on job satisfaction, productivity, creativity and longevity. All positive, right?

Yet, national employee engagement stats are dismal. Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace indicates only 33% of employees were considered “engaged” in the last year. At the same time, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by three times (OC Tanner). And among businesses with highly engaged teams, profitability increased by 21%, sales productivity by 20% and output quality by 40% (Harvard Business School).

So where is the disconnect?

Getting Started. If your organization is experiencing low engagement or you just want to do better, consider these key drivers of employee engagement. Then ask: How can you bridge between knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it? What support do you need from leadership? HR? How can you collaborate with your marketing and communications teams to take action?

Engagement Driver 1: Trust. Trust creates lasting relationships, boosts energy and improves productivity. According to an American Psychological Association survey on workplace and well-being, only 52% of employees think their employer is open and upfront with them. Leaders who are transparent in how, when and how much information they share build cultures of trust. And don’t think you have to share only the good news. Keeping employees up-to-date on the status of the business on a consistent basis, and opening up a conversation around the results, is a key way to build trust. Leaders should also look for opportunities to share information in person, invite questions and ask for input.

Engagement Driver 2: Well-being. Well-being is foundational to a strong workplace culture. Having strong physical wellness, emotional stability and mental clarity will give your employees the energy, resilience and ability to do their best work. If you don’t already have a wellness program, check out these stats:  Employees with higher levels of well-being are more likely to be engaged in their work – 88% vs. 50% with lower well-being (Quantum and Limeade, 2016). If you do have a wellness program, up the bar. Ask yourself – and, more importantly – ask your employees: What resources, tools and support do they need to achieve better well-being? How can you meet those needs? How will you measure the results of the investment?

Engagement Driver 3: Growth and Development. Giving employees rich development and advancement opportunities is critical to engagement and retention. The most engaged employees believe their jobs allow them to use their strengths, feel valued by senior leadership and believe their contributions and opinions are important. Organizations must inspire, encourage and support employees to stretch their skills and grow as professionals. Unfortunately, organizations have a tremendous amount of progress to be made here.

A 2017 Tiny Pulse survey said only 26% of employee see adequate opportunities for growth in their current roles. And 87% of millennials say professional development or career growth opportunities are very important to them (Gallup, 2016). Take a fresh look at your practices. Are you providing professional growth paths that are measurable and reward success? Is advancement criteria clear and measurable? Are you providing valuable, actionable and timely feedback on performance and areas for growth and improvement?

Engagement Driver 4: Appreciation. Sometimes all it takes is a simple “thank you.” When employees feel appreciated, they are more connected to the company’s purpose, more productive, motivated, happier and more dedicated. Only one in four employees feel valued at work – a 16% drop from 2016 (Tiny Pulse, 2017). Nearly 70% of employees said they would work harder if their efforts were better appreciated (Socialcast, 2015). There’s no end to the proof points that employees who feel valued and appreciated work harder, produce better results, stay with their companies longer and are more engaged.

Engagement Driver 5: Inspiration and Connection. Connections to purpose, peers, communities and values are more important than ever in the workplace. Millennial employees specifically gravitate toward companies that are transparent and have a sense of purpose they can believe in and embrace. Strong social connections and friendships at work boost productivity, inspire employees to be more passionate about their work and increase loyalty. What can you do to inspire your employees? To give back to your communities? To create a culture of friendship and connections?

How will you start embedding these key engagement drivers into operations, human resources, marketing in 2018? There’s no time like now to get started. Really. Because at least a third of your employee already may be looking for a new job.

The PR Council’s Job Center is an excellent resource for those searching for jobs or sharing open positions in the PR industry. Our members receive highly discounted rates – learn more here.