3 Actionable Rules to Increasing Employee Engagement and Productivity Through Empathy
Read time: 7 min.
Why is Employee Engagement Important?
After years of defensive strategies, managers and executives primarily focus on a return on investment (ROI) and helping grow their business. Customers are usually the next priority in line, because they are ultimately the reason for the organization’s revenue flow. At the bottom of the totem pole, leaves our employees.
According to Gallup, 51% of employees in the United States are disengaged and 16% are actively disengaged.1 That means only 33% of employees are engaged, productive, and excited about their job.
Your employees should be at the center of your organization’s mission and growth strategy. Engaged employees feel happier and more motivated to actively participate. Engagement is the fuel to driving the connection between your customers and organization. Once that’s achieved, there’s no mistaking that your clients will not only see but feel the energy and passion that your employees have for their business.2
“51% of employees in the United States are disengaged and 16% are actively disengaged.” 1
How to Improve Employee Engagement
What would happen if you started proactively thinking about what’s important to your employees? “As a consulting firm, our assets are our people and we value them highly,” Terillium CEO Warren Bach says.3 Your employees are the face of your brand, the storytellers of your mission, and the bridge to gaining trust from your clients. Once you pivot your mindset to start seeing your employees as the most important asset to your organization, you’ll be amazed at the rewards your business will reap. Everyone wants to be heard, understood, and taken seriously – and it starts with empathy.
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” ― Richard Branson
The Drivers of Engagement
The importance of setting up an employee engagement strategy is crucial to overall growth and development of your business. To really tap into your employee’s perspective, show them you care. Start by building your employee engagement strategy around these three rules:
- Grow their connections
- Build their personal brand
- Propel their career
Rule #1: Help Grow Their Connections
“When employees are allowed to represent your company at events, engage in learning opportunities, or attend conferences and networking meetings they are developing skills that can support their own personal growth. They are also getting your business’s name out there and giving you more exposure.” 4
Start with their very first connection within the corporation – you. Onboard them with your organization’s memorabilia. Welcome them into the business and make them feel a part of the team. Something as small as gifting company-branded clothing can help provide a sense of unity. It’s a physical signal that they represent the organization.
Provide tasks to help employees interact with different people in the organization. By doing this, you are helping them build relationships. In return, they will hopefully see the benefit of relationship building and translate that into their work.
Make it a priority to have your team attend different networking events and conferences. This is a great way to get them involved and to gain some independence. Bringing back information and new ideas to the team will show them their participation and work is valuable.
Rule #2: Aid in Building Their Personal Brand Through Motivation
“Giving your employees the opportunity to grow not only helps support their brand. It also expands their knowledge and skillsets.” 4
Learn more about what makes your team happy, what interests them, their dreams, what bores them, etc. The more you can understand how they work and operate, the more you can help mentor and guide them into creating their personal brand.
Always keep your team’s minds moving. Provide challenges to help them grow. “When individuals and teams push the boundaries of their comfort zone on a regular basis, the wider that area becomes. And in my experience, it’s outside the comfort zone where the magic really happens.” 5 An exercised mind keeps the energy flowing towards a high performing and engaged mentality.
Celebrate the wins, both big and small. A happy employee is an engaged employee. “Actively acknowledging the milestones you and your employees reach, great and small, goes a long way in sustaining and enhancing your ability to keep moving towards your vision and doing so with a positive mindset.” 6 Reward them with a future benefit. With that constant reminder of a future perk, motivation will serve as a catalyst to drive employee engagement. Once you start supporting your employees personal branding goals, motivational engagement will follow suit.
Rule #3: Encourage Growth Within Their Career
“Make a clear effort to cultivate a growth environment for your workers. It’s an investment that can deliver huge returns for your staff and your business.” 7
Allow your employees to have a voice. Show them their opinions are valued, because the voice of employees helps improve overall organizational agility. “As the world evolves more rapidly, organizations that cannot quickly build a picture of how they need to change – and then take action – will fall behind.” 8 Creative moves need to happen quickly, which calls for multiple perspectives.
Take the time to invest in your employee’s personal career. Set up weekly, monthly, yearly meetings to develop SMART goals that will guide them in the direction they want to grow. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. The point of a SMART goal is to wrap up all the criteria in one concise and specific statement to help focus on the task that’s needed to accomplish the goal.
With SMART goals at the forefront, create checkpoints and deadlines to have tasks done, so your employees can stay on track. Provide feedback that will better navigate them toward accomplishing their goals. Being their biggest advocate will enhance employees’ confidence and trust in your organization.
When a team has more trust, creative meetings for brainstorming new ideas are more productive. Encourage all ideas – even those that may seem counterproductive. Those “bad ideas” have the potential to generate new leads that might not have been discovered unless that “bad idea” was stated. “This is a long way of saying there shouldn’t be a heavy distinction between bad ideas and good ideas–encourage all ideas from all of your employees, and you’ll naturally end up with better ideas by the end.” 9 Take notice in their creative ideas, so that they feel comfortable to pitch new concepts.
How Does This Help in the Overall ROI?
Your employees are the instigators of the engagement train. Once an employee engagement strategy is established and practiced:
- Companies with a highly engaged workforce experience a 19.2% growth in operating income over a 12-month period
- Engaged companies grow profits as much as 3X faster than their competitors
- Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the organization
- 2X higher customer loyalty
- 2X higher productivity
- 2X lower turnover10
In a recent article, Turner’s EVP & Global Chief Communications and Corporate Marketing Officer, Molly Battin, agrees that much power and financial growth lies within their employees. “In 2018, we developed the first truly integrated, global, omnichannel brand campaign for Turner – We Make Fans – which offers layers of storytelling to engage and connect with employees, consumers and advertisers from the inside out,” Battin says. “We live in a time of unprecedented connectivity – our ability to connect with each other, and content, at any time.” 11
It’s important to tap into this concept, because your employees are the dependable bond to clients. As your employees represent your brand story, trust is gained by means of empathy. Your clients should be at the center of your mission, but your employees should be in the center of your clients. They are the lever that turns the engagement wheel and empathy is the instigator.
How Do You Measure Employee Engagement?
“Without the majority of the workforce being aligned, engaged and executing towards the same goals successful transformation becomes an almost insurmountable task.” 12 By following these three rules and documenting your employees’ growth, you will better be able to measure employee engagement. Let’s recap these three areas that need to be measured:
- Individual needs
- Team orientation
- Professional growth
Each of your individual employees must feel comfortable and know what is expected within their role in the organization. By utilizing training and resources at their disposal, they should feel comfortable and motivated to continue to grow and excel. In return, treat them as individuals and be sure to keep them on the right path with constructive feedback and scheduled meetings to aid in their personal brand.
As an organization, make sure to promote collaboration and integrate your employees with the rest of the team. This is a great exercise to ensure everyone is on the same page with a clear mission and purpose of the business. To measure engagement and effective action planning, evaluate leadership throughout the organization and camaraderie between coworkers. Many peer recognition programs provide managers the ability to exclusively recognize employees within the organization.13
Short-term and long-term goals are also very productive in developing professional growth within each of your employees. Do you meet to discuss progress and performance? Are the steps for accomplishing their milestones clearly communicated and documented? If you notice your team projecting motivation and enthusiasm towards building their professional growth, this is another great way to measure engagement.
“Managers need to look at engagement as a hierarchical structure, starting with basic needs and moving towards personal and professional growth – all of which impact an employee’s ability to help drive change.”12
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, it all comes back to being able to empathize. If you can empathize with your employees, they will feel more motivated to stay engaged at work and empathize with your customers. Once you can identify with their needs, the understanding of your customers will become clear and your entire organization will show the passion and motivation that drives your business.
“We have worked to build a company culture that places an emphasis on teamwork, and where employees look forward to a new day, are challenged mentally and supported by colleagues and management.” 3
Empathy is the key to gaining trust in all facets of your corporation. Your employees are the most important asset to your organization. They are the face of the brand, the storytellers to your customers and the pivotal piece to achieving ROI.