Improving employee engagement is one of the key ingredients for achieving high performance. Research shows that highly engaged employees perform 20% better and that those organisations with the most engaged employees are, on average, 22% more profitable. Therefore, it makes sense that we should design our performance management software to improve employee engagement as much as possible.
To learn how to improve employee engagement, we first need to understand what it is and what leads your staff to become engaged. There are many different theories and models about employee engagement and performance. But our preferred one is that put forward by the entrepreneur and business writer Kevin Kruse, as it’s aimed at managers on the front line of performance management. Kruse defines employee engagement as:
“The emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation and its goals.”
His conclusion from analysing existing research on employee engagement is that you can boil it down to four key components:
Growth and development
Recognition and appreciation
Trust and confidence.
Let’s take each of these in turn and consider how performance management processes can be designed to maximise them.
How to Improve Employee Engagement: Communication
Kruse: There should be frequent, consistent two-way communication.
Regular one-to-ones are the best way to achieve two-way communication within a performance management context. Kruse advocates that line managers should meet with each of their team members for a 15 – 30-minute catch up weekly. Deloitte has recently adopted this approach, and its managers are expected to have weekly”check-ins” with each of their staff. The key to success here is ensuring that the discussions are two-way rather than the manager simply dictating priorities. Providing employees and managers with a suggested agenda for these meetings can help in this respect.
How to Improve Employee Engagement: Growth and Development
Kruse: Team members should feel like they are learning new things and advancing their career.
Growth and development can be achieved through managers and employees spending dedicated time discussing career goals and building a personal development plan that will help to build the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours to achieve those goals. Many organisations do this once a year as part of their annual performance appraisal, but Kruse suggests it should be done twice a year to maximise employee engagement and performance.
Either way, it is important that progress against personal development plans is regularly reviewed throughout the year rather than it being put away in a draw until the following year. Our performance management system helps with this by showing employees’ personal development goals alongside their performance objectives to ensure that they are given sufficient visibility and attention.
How to Improve Employee Engagement: Recognition and Appreciation
Kruse: Team members need to feel appreciated and that their ideas count.
Frequent feedback is essential for improving employee engagement. Your performance management processes should incorporate ongoing, regular feedback, at least every fortnight, rather than managers saving up feedback for formal reviews or relying on yearly 360-degree feedback processes.
Of course, recognition and appreciation are about giving positive feedback and saying thank you. So managers should be encouraged to give the right balance of positive to constructive feedback — research suggests a ratio of 3:1 is about right. For positive feedback to be meaningful, the person giving the feedback should explain the impact the action or achievement had upon them personally or on the team or organisation. Kruse adds that saying thank you to a person in front of others (e.g. in a team meeting) will magnify its impact.
How to Improve Employee Engagement: Trust and Confidence
Kruse: Team members need to trust the leadership and have confidence in the organisation’s future.
It might seem to be outside of the scope of performance management, but an important aspect of building this trust and confidence is openly sharing the organisation’s plans and goals for the forthcoming period and the longer term. For this to have an impact, the organisational goals need to be communicated in a language that employees can relate to and understand. To engage your employees and get them to relate to those goals, ask them to come up with their own objectives that will help deliver the organisational goals, rather than cascading objectives down to them from above.
Another aspect of instilling trust and confidence is ensuring that your managers lead by example when it comes to performance management behaviours. Managers who devote regular time to discussing performance and personal development, give frequent, positive feedback and adopt a coaching style of management are likely to gain trust and respect from their team members. So train your managers in these skills, starting at the top of the organisation with your senior leadership.
Make improving employee engagement and performance simple using Clear Review’s continuous performance management software, allowing your teams to set goals, give instant feedback and have meaningful conversations with ease. To see it in action for free, fill out our book a demo form, and a member of our expert team will be in touch.