Employee engagement directly relates to overall company performance. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, high engagement means as much as 65 per cent less turnover, up to 41 per cent less quality issues, and 21 per cent higher productivity – not to mention higher profits, better customer ratings, and less absenteeism. In short, every manager should be concerned with how to engage their workers and draw out their best performance.
For small business owners, however, any employee engagement tactic comes with an inevitable question: “what is it going to cost the company?” After all, less turnover and better productivity are great, but if incentives and parties are taking a huge chunk of your budget, it’s not going to work long-term.
Fortunately, there are a lot of things that management can do to engage workers that don’t cost the company a thing.
Here are a four low-budget employee engagement ideas to try out in your workplace.
1. Book one-on-one meetings
Steve Jobs was infinitely quotable, but there is one quotation in particular that often makes the rounds: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Making a regular habit of speaking to your employees on a one-on-one basis can help motivate staff and keep everyone focused – especially if you use the time to ask for their insights. After all, you never know where your company’s next great idea might come from, and asking your employees for their thoughts can produce valuable results.
Plus, it costs nothing to offer a few kind words to someone. Being recognized for their hard work goes a long way in making an employee feel appreciated, and it sends the message that they’re acknowledged by the higher-ups in the company.
2. Implement hack days
We mentioned the value of hack days in our recent post on inspiring your employees. Basically, you shut down business as usual for a day or two to allow employees to work on a passion project that – directly or indirectly – benefits the company. It can be just the thing to recharge your team’s batteries and allow them to return to work with renewed focus and energy.
A great example of this strategy is Shopify. For its Hack Days, it shuts down normal operations for two days so staff members can form teams and work together on projects of their choosing. They kick off with a catered pancake breakfast on day one, and wrap things up with group presentations in the staff lounge on day two. It’s great for team building, and can result in valuable ideas for the company (Shopify Stories, the company’s video spotlights on merchants, came about this way). But most importantly, when it’s all over, everyone returns to work with refreshed enthusiasm and focus.
3. Start a book club
Reading is definitely a low-cost activity, so forming a book club is a cheap and easy way to boost employee engagement. Choose a book for your team to read – ideally one that informs their work and projects – and then have weekly meetings to discuss. At agricultural company Monsanto, IT director of product development Mike Weaver led a book study group as a way to develop leadership through on-the-job learning. “The results were overwhelming,” he wrote. “Our time together had more impact on developing culture than any initiative I have ever been a part of.”
One word of warning: avoid the teacher-student dynamic. You’d be surprised at the engaged conversation that will result if the boss approaches the process from the position of someone who wants to learn something too.
4. Assign more responsibility
Salesforce recently wrote about how assigning employees more responsibility is a great way for managers to foster engagement for no cost – and we think they’re onto something. When you assign an employee more responsibility, you offer them a challenge. And when challenged, most employees will rise to the occasion.
The next time you’re leading a project and it seems like one of your reports would be a better fit for the lead, hand them the keys and watch them shine. Not only will it motivate them to produce results, but it will also help them to grow and learn – and ultimately become a more valuable team member.
Employee engagement reduces turnover and absenteeism, and increases productivity and profits – so it’s worth giving these ideas a try. The results might surprise you.