Engaging your employees can be a challenge. Some industries definitely have it easier than others. But the bottom line is, you don’t have to be a “hip” or “trendy” firm that sells a popular product to create an engaging company culture. Our Employee Engagement Manager, Nori Meyerson is in charge of doing just that.
Here are some interesting insights and some suggestions your company can take advantage of when creating an inclusive, positive, and engaged workspace for your employees.
Q: What does it mean to be “engaged” in the workplace?
A: For an employee to feel engaged, it’s important that they have an emotional connection to the company. My favorite definition of engagement is “The extent to which people are personally involved in the success of a business”. I think defining engagement from the perspectives of your employees is not just about your performance, but how connected you are with the company itself including values, mission, etc. At the end of the day, you can come in and do your job and do it half-heartedly and still get the same paycheck, but if you don’t care about the mission or the company’s values, everything kind of falls by the wayside in terms of engagement. At AccessPoint, I think our employees feel part of a team and that’s what we aim for. Create a team-based culture within your organization to cultivate positive engagement!
Q: Do you believe higher/lower employee engagement directly correlates with higher/lower levels of productivity? Work-Life Balance?
A: The more engaged the employee is with the entire company and their individual team; the more productive they will be. That productivity usually means profitability for the company! Being engaged and caring will also directly translate to your customers. If your employees are overworked and feel that their time is not appreciated, their work/life balance is definitely going to suffer, which will negatively impact productivity.
Q: What are some initiatives you implement to improve engagement in the workplace? Can you give examples of some better forms of engagement, in your experience?
A: It’s important to engage employees as soon as possible, from the moment they start, sometimes even before. We start to “engage” the employee before their first day by sending them a “Survival Guide” with everything they need to know to get started. From there we have a “Welcome Wagon” on their first day, which involves the new employee(s) pushing around a cart full of treats to all employees, introducing themselves along the way. We have weekly Ping Pong games, monthly birthday celebrations, and events throughout the year such as Lunch & Learns, holiday parties, summer picnics, baseball games, charity walks/events, happy hours, Adopt-A-Family, Holiday Shopping Night and so much more! Having events that employees can look forward to is crucial and helps create a culture of positivity and inclusiveness. Trying to encourage work-life balance while at work will certainly help improve levels of engagement.
Remember to try and be as accommodating as possible! For existing employees, it’s important to try and be flexible with team events. For instance, many employees may not be able to go to a weekday happy hour after work due to family or personal obligations. Here, I try and schedule things during the workday if possible, in order to maximize attendance and make everyone feel included. For new employees, I try and give them a restaurant guide for their area, and recommend things for them to try and get more involved with not only the company but the surrounding community. We make sure our employees know what to expect as much as possible. We try to do as many things as we can here so everyone feels a part of the rest of the team.
Q: What are some simple initiatives/steps a budding organization can start today to increase their employee engagement?
A: Communication is key! Morning team huddles with their department, company-wide Town Hall meetings, newsletters, award recognition programs (Core Vales Award), etc. I would start simple with events like a themed lunch or Happy Hour that everyone can participate in. You could try things like anniversary recognition, nominations, or something as basic as team lunches- something that everyone can enjoy, but not too specific. Holiday-themed parties are great opportunities to get everyone involved.
I think one of the first things you have to do is talk to your employees to see if and what they’re interested in. An employee survey is a great way to gauge where people are at. Some people will want to just go home to their family after work and not necessarily want to go to a happy hour after work hours. In that case, you could do things more at work during the day, just something to make sure everyone feels included.
Q: What is the role of employee engagement in influencing work culture?
A: Employee Engagement sets the tone of the office culture. It’s not just about organizing a lot of fun activities; it starts with the overall office environment and whether or not there’s open communication. Do team members understand how their contributions affect the organization? Are employees recognized for their contributions? How do employees feel about their job? Are they connected with the mission and on board with all of those values? You can have as many fun events as you want, but if your employees don’t feel a part of the team, your overall engagement will be lacking. Think big picture- creating a positive culture that reinforces teamwork and inclusivity goes a long way.
Q: Are there certain trends that seem to work? I.e. volunteering initiatives that people always like?
A: When you find a project, cause or charity that emotionally touches the majority of your employees, stick with it! Last year, AccessPoint employees participated in Operation Backpack through Volunteers of America, and within six weeks we were able to deliver 26 backpacks filled with school supplies for homeless children in Michigan. Even employees who were not parents donated supplies; relating to the need to give these children the chance to succeed just like their peers. The core truth is that people like to help, and if you can take advantage of that emotional connection and feeling you can pull them together and engage them easier.
At AccessPoint, we’ve created a sort of cultural brand within our corporate brand called CARE – an ever-present, underlying initiative which has roots throughout our entire company. It cultivates a positive community based on core values, which is important when getting people involved and giving back to the community. It shows it’s not all about us.
Q: What are some ways to include employees that are new or feeling left out?
A: We have a “Welcome Wagon” for each new employee in the FH office. They are introduced to each team member and gets a sense of what they do, where they sit, etc. Our VP of Human Resources schedules follow-up meetings with each new hire to make sure everything is running smoothly and answer any questions. For companies trying to improve engagement, I would suggest they try and implement a sort of “buddy” system for all new hires, matching them to a current employee who takes them under their wing for a month or so until they learn the ropes. Also having weekly/monthly events where everyone on the team is involved is a great way for new employees to get to know everyone outside of the office environment.
Q: How important is inclusivity when brainstorming programs to engage?
A: I try to pick events and causes that appeal to the masses. We try to stay as general as possible with entire office events or programs but then meet with smaller groups for more specific interests, i.e. Girls Night Out or a book club. I would definitely try and start with general, more inclusive events such as team lunches or holiday parties before scheduling interest-specific events (gauge your employees’ interests over time).
Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face in your role associated with involving everyone in various engagement initiatives?
A: The bottom line is that it’s impossible to please everyone every time! I try to vary the day of the week that we hold events so that I’m not constantly scheduling things on a Monday (which is someone’s bowling night)! I schedule events during work hours like a Lunch & Learn or our weekly Ping Pong tournament, as well as after work on a variety of days, or even on the weekend. We change up the type of event to accommodate as many different interests as possible.
Q: In your experience, have you found that certain initiatives are less effective than others?
A: If it’s of interest to only a small group of people (even a charity fundraiser), you don’t get as much participation. Events that are not near the office, scheduled on a weekend that doesn’t involve your family or in the winter when the weather is bad, are usually events with a low turnout.
Q: Do you have engagement suggestions for a company that has a lot of remote employees?
A: This is one of my biggest challenges. We try to involve our remote locations as much as possible with National Day Celebrations (Root Beer Float Day, Blueberry Muffin Day, etc.), competitions like a Chili Cook-Off or best costume at Halloween, spirit days like dressing in favorite team apparel (MSU vs. U OF M), and even Take Your Kids to Work Day with remote access via Go To Meeting for all the presentations. At the end of the day, engaging remote employees is a challenge, but can definitely be achieved if efforts are consistent.
Stay tuned for more tips and insights on improving your workplace right here on the AccessPoint Blog.