5 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement and Retention

As we continue to see the high resignation rates, employee retention has become the topic du jour.

Here’s the thing – employees no longer want to work in jobs that just keep them busy from 9 to 5. Instead, they want to feel meaning in their work, feel involved in the company they work for, and have enthusiasm for their role. We’ve known this for a while, but companies that didn’t prioritize it are feeling the impact now. While retention feels like a threat to companies with a disengaged team, this is actually a great thing – an advantage – for companies with the right perspective. 

How We Got Here: The Pandemic 

As a collective, we’ve awakened to the fact that most of the hours of our day for most of the days of our week are spent at the workplace. If the hours feel empty, we are quick to look for more meaningful ways to fill our day. 

This has never been more true than after a global pandemic. This pandemic and the ensuing years of disruption it created put everything into perspective. When something as basic as health, food, or safety gets put on the line, everything else naturally gets pushed to the back burner.

How We Move Forward: Foster a Team of Engaged Employees

If you’re concerned about employee retention, you aren’t alone. 

Employee engagement can predict employee retention. A content employee punches the clock, has a respectful attitude, and puts their head down until it’s time to go home. Engaged employees are dedicated. They work toward the goals of the company, see the vision, and want to help you get there. 

But how can you create a team of engaged employees?

Quality versus quantity of energy

Engagement is energy, but not all energy is created equal. The quality of that energy matters. Here are some ways to optimize energy:

  • Uproot toxic energy. Toxic energy is more likely to drive down top performers than top performers are to bring up the toxic person. This process may be painful, but employees who are a constant drain on the energy of the room will take more with them than they bring to the table.
  • Elevate productive energy. Too often the employee with negative energy gets the most attention. They get the promotion to keep them happy, the raise to keep them on board, they get a good project so they stop complaining, etc. This person sees that this negativity gets them what they want and they’ll continue.

    Further, this shows the productive and positive person that negativity will be rewarded, dulling them over time. Instead, reward and elevate the productive energy. Give promotions, raises, and exciting projects to those who are excited for them first. This will show your team that this positivity is the energy that you’re looking for and elevate the effort of the room.
  • Pair people together based on their connection. Is there a way to connect people on projects that naturally work well together? Energy is infectious – this can be an advantage.

Understand the Different Motivators

We often make the mistake of assuming that there’s only one reason that people are motivated and therefore try to inspire in only one way. But there are actually two factors that drive motivation.

  • Increase pleasure – This motivator is the one we usually use to inspire action. We consider this a productive motivation.

    People who are primarily motivated to increase pleasure are people who are interested in a promotion, additional opportunities, more money, more responsibility, etc. Someone with this as their dominant motivation type can be inspired by discussing the benefits of new opportunities.

    This is how we usually appeal to employees, but it is not the only motivating factor.
  • Decrease pain – This motivator is counterintuitive – it’s based on the desire to minimize things that are counterproductive. People who are primarily motivated to decrease pain are interested in avoiding trouble or eliminating risk.

    We often try to motivate all employees with the “increased pleasure” type of inspiration. We tout benefits – personal or professional goals we’ll achieve.

    Sometimes we take offense to or misread the fact that not everyone cares about this. We tend to label them as lazy or unmotivated. In reality, someone who is primarily motivated to minimize risk is not unmotivated, they are differently motivated.

    When approaching them with a new opportunity, therefore, it’s more productive to go through what could go wrong if the change is not implemented. You can inspire and motivate action through an appeal to risk reduction.

We all have a bit of both of these motivators, but each of us has a dominant one. Can you manage your team based on individual dominant motivations? 

Ask yourself, are they more driven to protect what they have, or to grow through new opportunities?

Engage them in Conversation

If you want an engaged workforce, it’s crucial to make it feel safe to engage. To make it feel safe to engage, you need to establish a mutual trust. A trust that an individual opinion is valued, will be heard, and that there won’t be repercussions for honesty.

Creating a space for productive, open, and honest conversation gives employees the feeling that their opinion, role, and position are valued. This conversation also reinforces the feeling that inspired it – namely that you trust and respect them. 

Listen and Interact

Be a good listener and care about them as people – people who exist outside of work too. Ask about their hobbies, weekend plans, home life, etc. 

Then, more crucially, follow up. Ask about something they mentioned, share an article you read that made you think of your conversation, and touch base with them later down the line.

Genuine relationship building takes time and effort, but when it comes to employee engagement and retention, that time pays off in spades.

Acknowledge Successes

Too many employees only hear from their managers when there’s a problem. This will make them dread talking to you and be less likely to engage in conversations and the company as a whole.

This is why the fifth way to nurture your workplace environment for engagement is to acknowledge successes. This doesn’t have to be with outright rewards, but a simple acknowledgment goes a long way.

Creating Engaged Employees

The increase in resignations has only reinforced what we already knew – employees want to be engaged in their work. For a company with the right mindset, this is an opportunity to give that meaning and purpose to your teams (if you haven’t already).

Engaged employees work hard toward the company’s mission and vision. If you’re finding engagement difficult, reinforce and build trusting relationships with your team, cater motivation to the individual, and always look for ways to level up the quality of the energy in the room.