4 refreshingly simple ways to engage employees

Engaged workers are productive workers. Here are four ways to motivate them.

Uninspired, lethargic, even disgruntled.

Do those terms describe your workforce? If so, you’re not alone.

Gallup’s latest “State of the Global Workplace” report says a staggering 85 percent of employees are not engaged at work.

Here are four ideas to help reverse that trend and create a more positive culture at your organization:

1. Survey staff for solutions. “Companies with engaged employees usually have policies in place that promote work-life balance, career development, inclusion and alignment to their greater purpose,” says Emmy Negrin, head of people development at OpenTable.

She recommends identifying your company’s outdated policies on issues such as flexible time off, paid family leave, paid time off to volunteer, or opportunities for professional development.

“A great way to do this is to create a survey where you ask your employees what they would like to see improved in their culture. This puts the employee voice front and center,” Negrin says. “Then include them in the solution by creating employee task forces to identify new programs and initiatives.”

2. Support employee resource groups (ERGs). Employee-led affinity groups can help promote a more positive culture of inclusion and diversity. They’re usually run by on-staff volunteers and give employees an active role in building awareness, educational events and professional opportunities for underrepresented groups.

To start an ERG program, says Negrin, it’s important that company leaders are fully supportive and committed to the success.

“One way to jump-start a program is to encourage employees to define their group’s mission, goals and focus areas,” she says. “Successful ERGs usually have an executive sponsor, a small budget and employee co-chairs that lead the charter.”

3. Embrace mobile apps. Employees usually have their cell phones with them and are more likely to engage with an app than a company e-newsletter.

“A mobile app is a great way to inform and inspire staff,” says Beth Stellato, director of communications at Newell Brands. “We built ours by partnering with a company called Social Chorus. I definitely recommend it, particularly with a millennial workforce.”

She advises keeping your mobile content to 200 words or less.

“Get the information across quickly,” she says. “Our attention spans are short, and people typically check apps while running to a meeting or waiting for an elevator.”

How do you create or curate great app content that fosters engagement?

“We run a monthly photo contest and weekly trivia,” Stellato says. “Both have been incredibly popular. The trivia is always about our company and brands, which has proven to be a great way to educate employees.”

4. Revive your intranet with video. Intranets are often boring, lifeless content wastelands. “Video can really personalize things and increase engagement,” says Jeremy Godwin, who manages Verizon’s intranet and hosts a daily video series for employees.

Called “Up to Speed,” the daily video provides a quick update on what’s happening around Verizon and the tech industry.

“Frequency is a critical success factor,” Godwin says. “Daily may be too aggressive for most teams, but once a week shouldn’t be out of the question.”

Don’t overthink equipment. “Just get started with your smartphone,” he says. “There are so many apps and accessories that can help you produce solid content, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have solid content. Work the content and then the production.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager.Emmy Negrin (OpenTable), Jeremy Godwin (Verizon) and Beth Stellato (Newell Brands) will reveal more employee communication tips in Ragan Training’s May 18 virtual summit, “Create a Winning Culture: Unlock Your Greater Mission, Increase Employee Engagement and Attract Top Talent.”

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