Invest in your people to keep them engaged - it's not just about the money

With International Friendship Day approaching, MHR's Asimina Stamatiou discusses ways to engage your people through honest communication, appreciation and kindness. Can your organisation become your employees' friend?

Invest in your people to keep them engaged - it's not just about the money


International Friendship Day is a UN recognised event taking place on the 30th July to celebrate the people we care about, and how important these relationships are to our daily lives as well as in promoting peace. The UN encourages governments and organisations to hold events and initiatives that promote solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation. Although Friendship Day is not strongly publicised in the UK, its key messages are important considerations for businesses looking to improve their culture. 

Keeping your employees engaged is challenging, but rewarding. Happy, engaged employees are more productive, and more creative, as well as being less likely to leave your organisation. So what can you do to better reach your people, and make them feel appreciated?

Looking across your organisation and reviewing what you offer your employees, and what you could be offering, will start the process of developing an engagement strategy to energise your people. This may seem like a daunting task, but there are a few things to consider to get you started.

Top tips to include in your strategy

  1. Keep an open dialogue: Have regular catch-ups with your people to listen to their concerns or desires, and address them quickly. These prove more effective than annual appraisals as actions can be put into place all year round, making employees feel their opinions matter.
  2. Offer plenty of praise: When your people have done a great job, let them know! It works wonders for morale and can increase productivity levels.
  3. Be honest: Employees need to know when they’re doing well, but also when there’s room for improvement. Done in the right way, this allows them to grow, and shows you care about the work they do.
  4. Get regular feedback: Find out what your people need, and see what you can do to improve their working environment. Customisable surveys ensure questions are relevant and time-specific, such as during onboarding and offboarding.
  5. Show them the benefits: Explain to your employees what you have to offer to benefit them. Highlight things that make their lives easier rather than monetary gain.
  6. Show you care: Include a variety of engagement activities throughout the year to ensure your people always feel appreciated and involved. This could include wellbeing classes to address a variety of issues facing your people such as stress, work-life balance, and motivation - teaching ways to cope or overcome each one.

 

The key to successful engagement is showing, rather than telling your employees that you care about their wellbeing and the role they play within your organisation – which will be discussed in more depth later. Effective communication is vital to ensure your strategy is carried out well at all levels of your business to create mutual understanding between employees and your organisations objectives.

Opening up your culture

With international Friendship Day right around the corner, now may be a good time to remind your employees that as an organisation, you appreciate the work they do. Encouraging friendly attitudes and support shows your organisation is forward-focused, looking specifically for ways to make your people happy. Creating a culture where your people feel comfortable in their environment will take away that dread of the approach of Monday morning. One of the ways to define friendship is a relationship built on trust that provides help and support. Organisations can provide this benefit to its people by communicating openly and offering plenty of opportunities for both employees and management to discuss progression, concerns, setbacks and successes on equal terms. Having the confidence to confide in people within organisations about a variety of different personal and professional topics will build a culture of inclusion, making each employee feel that their individual needs are met, and that their contribution is appreciated. 

The importance of regular feedback as part of your strategy

Replacing annual appraisals with regular feedback meetings provides a space where employees feel supported, and their wellbeing is recognised as important all year round. These regular meetings should be mutual, with either managers or members of their team able to schedule a meeting on an ad-hoc basis. This sets both sides on equal ground for a more open discussion based on current activities, rather than employees feeling pressured to share their feedback for an entire year’s worth of disgruntlements. If the moment’s passed, it’s unlikely your people will bother sharing as they cannot see how anything will change.  

Checking in regularly give employees the chance to ask for opportunities and training whenever they feel it could benefit them most, and managers can check that targets and goals are still on track at key project intervals – ensuring both employee and employer continue to progress together. In order to reach out to your people in a genuine way, it can be really effective to discuss a range of topics – even if they aren’t strictly work-related. This could touch on ongoing stresses at home, making sure they are taking their holidays, or any difficulties with their commute.  

Helping your people to feel comfortable discussing different topics when they need to gives your organisation the chance to react proactively, and find a mutually beneficial solution. If your organisation is open to making suggestions, your people will feel appreciated, and this will help to ensure they remain productive whilst at work – rather than worrying about their issues alone.

Can an organisation be your employees’ friend?

Friendship Day is celebrated all over the world as a way to show recognition and gratitude towards people you care about. So as a company, perhaps you could address these sentiments too. Employees who feel as though their hard work is praised, but are also given tips to continue improving will be happy they are making progress in their career. Friends are honest, and can deliver hard truths when it is in their friend’s best interests, but will also be the first to congratulate every achievement, no matter how small. Recognising the benefits each employee brings will make them feel appreciated, and this can work both ways. Highlighting the benefits you offer your people can increase their appreciation of your organisation too.  

Employee Benefits

Show your people the variety of benefits that come from working for you, highlighting the gains above and beyond base salary. This may include free parking, private health care cover and pension contributions. The key to successfully communicating these benefits to your people is to consider the non-monetary gains you offer too, that won’t be visible on a payslip. Finding a way to remind your people of the great opportunities your organisation offers, that otherwise they may forget or even take for granted, will go a long way to making them feel more appreciative.

When linked with employee feedback, such as customised surveys, employees can have the opportunity to voice their opinion on current or proposed benefits. This way, they can see that the business is listening to what they want, and help shape the way the company invests in their wellbeing.

Successful employee engagement must go further than monetary benefits, and it is important to approach this from an employee’s perspective, rather than from the business outlook. “Free Parking” comes across a lot better than “We pay over £300 a month to cover employee parking costs, so you’re getting more than you think from us.”

Try a variety of different options and get feedback. Over time you will be able to create a fantastic engagement strategy to keep your people happy, motivated, and in for the long haul.

Key takeaways:

  • Communication is vital – speak regularly, consistently and fairly across your organisation.
  • Show you care – whether its praise or a benefits package, show appreciation for your people.
  • It’s not about the money – give kindness, thoughtfulness and friendship rather than promoting monetary gains.

 

Engagement initiatives may sounds time consuming but there is plenty of software on the market to help automate these processes. Find out more about our customisable surveys, rewards statements, and regular feedback ‘Talent Check-ins’, or read our latest whitepaper on company culture (it's not  tick box exercise). 

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