Employee engagement is a critical driver of business, impacting financial health and profitability. Yet just 32 percent of workers say they're engaged, according to Gallup. While it sounds like HR professionals have their work cut out for them, concerns about the importance of employee engagement have surprisingly declined since 2016, according to the ADP Research Institute® (ADP RI) report, Midsized Business: Poised to Lose Balance in a Time of Uncertainty. Engagement helps firms retain talent, foster customer loyalty and improve organizational performance and stakeholder value, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Most Organizations Aren't Focused on Employee Engagement

Organizations may have increased focus on compliance following the 2016 U.S. election, leaving less time for employee engagement activities. Organizations might also assume their workforce is already appropriately engaged. Unfortunately, most midsized businesses don't have a formal plan, process or even a means to measure employee engagement, according to the ADP RI report, Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect: Employer Perception vs. Employee Reality in the U.S. Midsized Market. Instead of watching talented employees walk out the door, take these five precautions to ensure they're engaged and you're in tune to their needs.

1. Start With Onboarding

First impressions are important. One-third of employees know whether they will stay with their employer long-term after their first week, according to SHRM. Engage employees early with a strong onboarding process. Create a written and detailed plan for an employee's first day, week and month. Have lunch with them on the first day to get to know them and establish a relationship. Tend to the details, like making sure their workstation is equipped and ready. It's worth the work; organizations with formal onboarding programs retain 91 percent of first-year employees, according to LinkedIn.

2. Create a Relationship-Driven Culture

Relationships make going to work fun. Forty percent of employees say their co-workers are the top reason they love their workplace, and 66 percent say these relationships positively impact their focus or productivity at work, according to Virgin Pulse. Set the stage for strong relationships by making it part of your culture. Plan fun activities, such as a weekly lunch, and assign mentors to new employees.

3. Have Strong Lines of Communication

Employees want to have ongoing communication with leaders, but just 25 percent feel satisfied with their current situation, according to SHRM. It's important for managers to maintain open lines of communication through methods like regular meetings and daily check-ins. Good communication also involves sharing the organization's goals and strategies.

4. Focus on Employee Strengths

Bring out the best in employees by offering them a chance to do the work they love. Ask employees which parts of their job bring them the most satisfaction — then give them more of those tasks. "Although corporate methods, behaviors and values vary, the most powerful human need at work remains the same: 'help me discover my strengths, and help me use them a lot,'" says Marcus Buckingham, Co-Head of the ADP Research Institute®. "Yet, the alarming reality is, by and large, companies continue to obsess about fixing employee weaknesses, rather than leveraging their strengths."

5. Offer Opportunities for Advancement

Unfortunately, a significant gap exists between employers and employees when it comes to the importance of opportunities for advancement. While a majority of employers believe their employees are adequately trained, just 45 percent of employees agree, according to ADP RI. Millennials want opportunities for development and self-improvement, and if they don't get it at their current employer, they're likely to look elsewhere. Career advancement is listed as the third most popular reason for a millennial leaving their current job, according to SHRM.

Engaging your current workforce is an investment in your organizations' future. "Talent is the multiplier," says Buckingham. "The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield."

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Tags: Employee Engagement