An introduction to increasing staff engagement and motivation

Employee engagement and motivation are products of a hard-to-measure mix of personal drivers, company performance and culture – it might feel like a tough subject to tackle.
Increasing staff engagement and motivation

But there are opportunities for improvements and staff engagement and motivation have a big impact on the bottom line. Disengaged workers can lead to low productivity, poor customer service, wastage and even theft.

Research by Perkbox found that just 35 per cent of disengaged employees rate their productivity as “strong” and engaged employees are 18 per cent more likely to work together as a team. It also highlights the cost of additional sick days and increased employee turnover.

This guide will help you spot issues and identify opportunities to boost staff engagement and motivation, including quick wins you can implement immediately. The next step will be to use our dedicated action plan to make changes in your business.

What contributes to staff engagement and motivation?

Pay and perks

Pay plays a central role in staff engagement and motivation. Employees who feel they are paid less than they’re worth are likely to grow despondent. Employers need to be conscious of market rates and employee expectations.

Employee perks can increase engagement and motivation, and provide an opportunity for employers to reinforce company values and culture. Perks could include:

  1. Flexible hours and working from home policies
  2. Increased pension contributions
  3. Additional maternity and paternity leave
  4. Leisure-based perks like free gym membership

Getting the right team in place

The way employees interact with each other plays an important role in engagement and motivation. Hiring the right person for a role has a multiplier effect; they do a great job and improve other people’s performance. Likewise, problematic employees can cause disenfranchisement.

People that are disruptive or make other team members feel bad will quickly erode the team’s motivation. That means it’s important to deal with problematic staff members quickly, whether by working with them to improve their approach or starting disciplinary procedures.

Performance management

Performance management improves productivity through goal setting and accountability. The aim is to ensure the effort staff put into their role contributes towards your company’s goals.

The systems you use to set goals and hold people accountable can have a big impact on engagement; people need to know what’s expected of them and why the work they do is important.

Company purpose

Employees want to make an impact and feel like their work is valued. A strong company purpose can galvanise the team, driving engagement and motivation.

Being clear about your company's purpose throughout the hiring and performance management process helps build this understanding.

Lucy-Rose Walker changed their employee handbook to better reflect the company's culture and values

“We initially used this clunky, formal employee handbook. It said what to do and not do but we soon realised that it didn’t fit with our culture and ethos of taking personal responsibility, so we changed the length and language to fit much more with what was important to us as a company.”

Lucy-Rose Walker, chair of Entrepreneurial Spark

The cold hard facts

Employees who are struggling at home clearly find it more difficult to be engaged at work. Gallup found that those who “are not thriving in their lives” have a 61 per cent higher risk of burnout and “thriving” employees miss 53 per cent fewer days due to health issues.

The good news is that employers can help. The research found that managers who engage employees can open them up to wellbeing efforts and suggests work should serve as a stabilising force in people's lives.

Common mistakes that damage employee engagement

Lack of communication

Surprising employees with a change of company direction, job role or other news that impacts their role can have a detrimental effect on engagement.

If your company is experiencing tough trading conditions, it may be better to share what’s happening and the potential implications, rather than try to hide everything and risk undermining your team’s trust.

Employees are stressed

Staff will find it difficult to stay engaged and motivated if they feel stressed or overwhelmed at work.

It’s possible to feel pressure without becoming stressed. However, unclear expectations, too much work and difficult work environments can leave people feeling anxious or scared. This causes the body to release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Employers need to ensure staff are working in a healthy way. Regular communication should allow you to spot issues before they develop.

Management behaviour doesn’t match employee expectations

If there’s a disconnect between what’s expected of staff and management behaviour it will lead to cynicism. It makes it difficult for people to buy-in to company values and goals, sapping engagement and motivation.

Day-to-day roles don’t match job specifications

It’s important to manage employee expectations. Small businesses often require an all-hands-on-deck approach to solving problems, but employees’ day-to-day roles shouldn’t differ considerably from what they were hired for.

This can happen when a business hires too early. It may be better to recruit for a specific part-time role than hiring a full-time employee that spends a lot of their time working in other areas of the business.

Matthew Gunn warns against overloading employees with technology and often checks in with staff over the phone

“Communication is difficult to perfect in any organisation, big or small, whether in an office or working from home. We’ve implemented new communication tools but not overloaded on technology for technology's sake. Calls remain a focal point and a great way to see how people are getting on. It’s great to jump in and see how someone is doing rather than shooting a direct message.”

Matthew Gunn, business manager of Agora

The cold hard facts

The UK has one of the lowest levels of engagement in Western Europe, ranking 13th of 18 nations analysed by Gallup, with only 11 per cent of employees describing themselves as “engaged”. In the leading nation, Norway, 17 per cent of employees are engaged in their work.

Quick wins for improving engagement and motivation

Provide regular recognition

Recognising employees’ hard work provides a morale boost. Look for ways to show you appreciate the work employees do. Easy opportunities include:

  • Sending a “wins” email every Friday
  • Creating a monthly award
  • Senior management taking the time to thank individual employees

Tying recognition back to your company’s mission and targets reinforces these objectives and shows employees they are contributing to the wider purpose.

Give employees a voice

Empowering employees gives people a sense of purpose, which boosts engagement and motivation.

The amount of freedom someone can have varies between job roles, but there are opportunities for quick wins outside of people’s day-to-day job roles:

  • Delegate research on company initiatives. This could be anything from Christmas party ideas to improving meeting efficiency
  • Create teams of employees from across the company to work on things like performance management or culture, rather it being manager-led
  • Get employees to set their own goals

Monitor engagement levels

Measuring engagement through a regular survey helps businesses understand if they’re moving in the right direction and what’s having an impact.

Asking employees how likely they are to recommend working at your business, ideally in an anonymous survey, provides a useful benchmark. This can be measured using a Net Promoter Score, which was originally developed to understand customer satisfaction.

Set salary expectations

Staff need to feel like they’re being fairly compensated for their work. The amount they’re paid plays a big role, but expectations are equally important.

There are a number of quick wins that can formalise your approach to salary increases and help staff know where they are:

  1. Review pay on an annual rather than an ad-hoc basis
  2. Share the average salary of particular job roles
  3. Prepare a job description for a potential promotion in advance, so it’s clear what an employee has to achieve to unlock the opportunity

“In our culture, people are not motivated by money, so we decided that bonuses are not a route we wanted to take. We would much prefer to make sure people were comfortable to do the job they needed to do and reimbursed appropriately for that, along with other benefits that support them as individuals to grow and develop.”

Chris Meah, CEO of School of Code

The cold hard facts

Gallup research revealed that the most memorable recognition comes most often from an employee's manager (28 per cent), followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24 per cent), the manager's manager (12 per cent), a customer (10 per cent) and peers (9 per cent).

What to do next?

We have a wide range of content dedicated to helping you solve crucial business challenges, but here are some suggestions:

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