Employee Engagement: Companies Should Think Past “Fun”

Managers and employees alike know the benefits of high employee engagement. When prioritizing our needs in the workplace, we value a pleasant work environment over a big paycheck, according to a recent British study conducted by the Association of Accounting Technicians. For managers looking to boost engagement, the key is to find the combination of perks and culture that helps build that high level of engagement. In an attempt to increase employee engagement, employers have tried a range of solutions. Some, according to Andre Spicer at The Guardian, insist that fun is the solution. Here’s their reasoning: Creating a fun atmosphere will make employees more willing to spend more time at the office. Call center managers have worked to incorporate fun in the form of gamification. A bit of healthy competition can increase employee engagement.

Other companies focus, instead, on how well a prospective employee fits in with the company culture. Micah Solomon, writing for Forbes, is skeptical. He looks at Zappos, long known for their focus on company culture, as a tale of warning. The company’s efforts to identify candidates who align with its values put too much weight on those attributes and too little on the skills needed to excel at the job. So if slides at work and company culture aren’t methods of improving employee engagement, what is?

Create a higher purpose, instead of entertainment

Instead of simply having fun at work, employees want to work with higher purpose. Think of the bosses who earn the loyalty of their subordinates. Employees stay late because they like their manager and want to do right by him or her. Which begs the question: What are these leaders doing that leads to that employee engagement?

Associate professor Amy Cuddy and her colleagues at Harvard Business School have researched the best way for leaders to build relationships with employees. The best managers, they found, show a combination of strength and warmth towards their employees. It’s important for leaders to be approachable, but also firm. They trust their teams. And, very importantly, they give credit where credit is due. How can you apply that to your contact center agents? Managers can make a point to give positive feedback to agents in order to reinforce the behavior.

That positive feedback loop is crucial, noted Justin Bariso for Inc.com. Managers may have different ways of expressing this praise: Some will offer more difficult customers to these agents or they may prefer to take the time to check in with their employees in a more casual manner, as opposed to a formal review process. Or a simple “nicely done” is the preferred method, depending on the employee. When employees receive genuine praise – not hot-air flattery – they are more willing to continue what they are doing. Additionally, employees take that feedback and place it in a greater context within a work environment. If a manager disrespects employees, the praise that follows will likely fall on deaf ears.

What can managers and leaders do to boost employee engagement as they look towards 2017?

1. Have fun in moderation

Putting time aside for employees to bond is a great way for them to feel engaged. Your employees will appreciate the effort to honor a work-life balance.

2. Show some warmth – but don’t be afraid to be strong

For some managers, displaying that warmth may mean becoming more vulnerable with their employees – which can be tough. It can also be as simple as taking a deep breath and asking one of your agents about their weekend and really listening to their response.

3. Compliment agents like you mean it

Giving genuine praise for a well-handled call can go a long way in making employees feel appreciated. And that will keep them engaged with the company.

Here’s to ringing in the new year with a fully engaged team.

The CX Pro’s Guide to Speech Analytics Find Out Why Customers Engage Through the Science of Conversation Customer Experience & Voice of the Customer Datasheet