Engagement and culture are closely related. When one goes bad, so does the other. If your culture goes south, so will your employee engagement. Meanwhile, if your employee engagement is at an all-time low, you need only look to your culture to find out why.
The problem with low engagement
Research from Bain and Company revealed some fascinating information about employee engagement:
As tenure increases, engagement levels decrease.
This means those with the most knowledge and experience are actually becoming less engaged.
Lower level employees have lower levels of engagement.
It could be that high-level management is out of touch with employee morale on the front lines.
Engagement levels are lowest for sales and service people.
Unfortunately, these are the same individuals who are most likely to interact with your customers!
Low engagement can lead to employees who are less productive, less likely to support company initiatives, and more likely to spread their discontent to fellow employees and customers. And that’s all before considering the ongoing cost of high turnover!
How to reengage your staff
As an employer, there are ways you can effectively work to win back your employees. An open, communicative environment is the best place to start. Having honest conversations with staff about what they like about working for you and what things they would change if they could can put you on the right path. This requires being open to hearing what they have to say and willing to make some changes.
Toxic work environments take a toll on both sides. There’s no question that managers and employees have both been burned by practices that have created an employer vs. worker mindset, with each side feeling like the other doesn’t have their best interests at heart. But when it comes to repairing the damage, it’s employers who have the upper hand.
At some point, each and every one of your employees was a brand-new hire, thrilled to have gotten a job with your company. They showed up that first day willing to give their best— and expecting great things from you. At the same time, you were excited about the talent and potential they were bringing with them.
Think about your culture change as a commitment to rehiring all of those awesome new people again. Find out what specifically made them choose you, what things may have gone wrong, and how you can work together to bring back that new job excitement.
Openly acknowledge that things aren’t where you want them to be. Don’t be vague. Address specific signs of discontent and policies or events you believe have negatively affected your team.
Admit that you can do better and commit to doing just that. Sincerity is very important here. If this message is delivered in an impersonal way, it won’t be convincing. Your employees will be skeptical, and rightfully so.
Speak up. And listen up.
Employee feedback is critical to this process. Employers and staff are often oceans apart on what they believe to be the key issues causing disengagement. Openly talking about these things is the only way to find out what’s really going on. Realize this tactic may not bear fruit immediately, as your employees may be afraid to speak out or be honest.
Commit to a long-term plan that incorporates several different tactics for information gathering. A mix of focus groups, surveys, and one-on-one conversations will allow for various types of people to communicate in ways that are comfortable to them. It also shows your team that you value their input, and you are genuinely interested in improving.
Be willing to change
Talk without change is just that. If you want your employees to put their faith in you, you will have to actually deliver. Make sure something tangible happens relatively quickly. This will ignite the spark of hope in your most optimistic players.
As you continue to make changes and clearly communicate why and how they are taking place, others will begin to jump back on the trust bandwagon. Over time, those who don’t believe in the new culture you are creating will eventually select themselves out. That’s okay. Sometimes following through means letting go of things that run counter to your new purpose.
Culture isn’t formed overnight, and it isn’t always easy to maintain. But it can be done. Once you’ve settled on your new vision, share it with the team and stick with it. Your future is yours to create— one step, and one employee, at a time.
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