HR Leads Business

Jun 18, 2020 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer

How to Maintain Employee Engagement

Amid the bleak headlines of the past few months, a surprising statistic stands out: Employee engagement numbers are on the rise. According to a recent Gallup poll, employee engagement in the U.S. reached 38% in May, 2020 — the highest since the firm began tracking engagement in 2000.

While the upward trend is encouraging, there’s still a long way for companies to go. Almost half of workers (49%) report not being engaged or indifferent to their organization. That leaves room for growth for HR to support managers and increase engagement across the workforce. 

“Managers shouldn’t think about employee engagement as a program that HR owns,” says Cheryl Fields Tyler, founder and CEO at Blue Beyond Consulting. “HR activates managers as powerful influencers over their teams.”

Here are three ways to support employee engagement across the organization, from individual team members to the C-suite.

Address the Whole Person, Not Just the Worker

Stress is on the rise for most Americans. This can have a significant impact on your workforces’ engagement levels. With many companies shifting suddenly to remote work, home and work lives are no longer compartmentalized as they once were for many people. 

Provide holistic support to help improve both engagement and productivity. “You have to address the person before the project,” says Chris Mulligan, CEO at TalentKeepers. Stress may decrease focus and engagement with daily work, but providing more project structure and task visibility can help, Mulligan suggests. Using task lists or kanban boards are great ways to help workers prioritize and visualize their assignments and stay engaged in the day-to-day work.

HR can also support direct managers by training them to help workers manage stress and anxiety in holistic, meaningful ways without violating their privacy. “HR can set the standards on levels, methods and topics of communication,” Mulligan says. Establish guidelines for when direct managers should refer workers to HR or employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Amplify Employee Experiences

Provide your workers an opportunity to participate in the organization’s larger story. For example, don’t just recognize employees one-on-one. “Don’t just send the email,” Fields Tyler says. “Amplify the experience.” Host a virtual awards ceremony that workers can attend from home. These moments of recognition let individuals invest themselves in your organization’s history and culture.

“Identify the things that matter most and keep them front and center,” Fields Tyler says. Celebrate employee victories, but also listen when employees have bad experiences that prevent them from feeling engaged. For example, workers of color may not feel as integrated or heard as white employees. 

It’s critical to listen to and acknowledge employee experiences. “Communication is key,” Mulligan points out, and especially in times of change or uncertainty. “Leaders have to be more proactive and schedule time with their team members.”

Build Community Across the Workforce

Community is vital to creating engagement. However, that means more than asking managers to create siloed communities in their individual units. Instead, build a community of leaders across the company. “You can’t have managers creating engagement and community within their teams if they’re not experiencing it themselves,” Fields Tyler says. Facilitate peer support, connection and community among direct managers.

Set the standards for what good leadership looks like in your organization. Once leaders understand what they're aspiring to, leadership training will be much more effective. When leaders feel supported, they’re better equipped to support their teams. And when you put individuals who are passionate about the organization into a larger community, that enthusiasm spreads. “The secret tool in the HR arsenal is our ability to intentionally create a sense of community among managers,” Fields Tyler says.