5 ways CEOs can increase employee engagement
In the aftermath of COVID-19, we have settled into a slowing economy. As a result, after two years of a white-hot labor market, hiring has begun to see some cooling. In fact, Vistage research has recorded a steady decrease in the number of companies that plan to increase headcount over the course of the next year.
While hiring may be softening, it is critical for CEOs to still prioritize retention, both to slow the high pace of workforce velocity — which has proved resilient even amid economic uncertainty — but also to proactively prepare for the next growth cycle, in which the hiring frenzy of 2021 and 2022 will reignite with full force.
To inform a successful retention strategy, leaders must look to employee engagement — the degree to which employees are invested in, connected with and committed to their work, their colleagues and their company’s growth. The following are five effective ways CEOs can improve employee engagement levels:
1. Align behind a purpose
To increase employee engagement, it’s important to first understand the evolving desires of employees. Workers today increasingly want to feel their work is valued — both internally, and by the world at large — and that they’re part of something that’s bigger than themselves. They want to know and understand their company’s vision and make sure they’re aligned with its overarching mission.
The rising class of Gen Z employees, which will soon make up the majority of the workplace, is particularly motivated by purpose-driven work. As a result, employers need to ensure every employee, from C-Suite to intern, is aligned with the organization’s goals and understands how their daily outputs are impacting the world at large.
2. Measure engagement
Leadership should determine how they are going to quantify and capture employee engagement levels, i.e., regular pulse sentiment surveys and/or productivity metrics. This should be measured on a regular basis to ensure leadership has a real-time understanding of individual employee’s concerns, feedback, interests and commitment levels. A key to successfully measuring employee engagement is the inclusion of open-ended questions that allow employees to provide genuine feedback.
3. Act upon results
Once CEOs have a standardized system in place for measuring feedback, it’s crucial to act. This data should inform how employers shape and evolve their employee experience, as we know it plays a major role in engagement. That means looking at the company’s culture and its working environment, which includes the physical office space as well as the technology and/or tools employees can access. If employees don’t have the resources they need to be successful at work, they will begin to lose motivation.
4. Manager training
While the rise of hybrid work hasn’t created “quiet quitting” and “bare minimum Mondays,” it has made it more difficult for frontline managers and bosses to identify who is and isn’t committed to their job. Engagement issues can spread like wildfire, as under-engaged or underperforming employees often put an unfair brunt of the workload on their colleagues, creating a continuum of burnout across the organization.
Managers need to have a clear understanding of how to recognize engagement in the field; and for organizations that are hybrid or remote, that requires an entirely new set of competencies. Providing consistent training to managers throughout the organization will help to stop the issue in its tracks. One of the most important drivers of the employee experience is that of the boss.
As the adage goes: People don’t quit bad jobs, they quit bad bosses. Investing in managers’ learning and ensuring bosses are in accordance with the overarching culture can improve employee experience tenfold.
5. Stay interviews
Instead of waiting for exit interviews when it is too late to improve engagement issues, leaders can proactively implement quarterly or bi-annual stay interviews. These are two-sided discussions in which employees and bosses have interview-style conversations with the aim of identifying if they would “choose” to work together again as well as determining what they need in order to move forward together.
Even in hiring lulls, CEOs can leverage employee engagement to increase productivity, shore up retention, slow workforce velocity, and proactively prepare for the next growth cycle. Regardless of the economic landscape, employee engagement is always a worthwhile investment, as organizations with high levels of engagement have even been shown to perform better.
This story first appeared in Inc.