When we talk about employee engagement, what do we mean? We're referring to the relationship between organizations and their staff, and the goal of creating organizational success and professional wellbeing in the workplace.

Though many people refer to employee wellbeing as "happiness," it's better defined as a combination of role clarity, ability to do one's best work, feedback and recognition, as well as a compelling company mission/brand; those constitute the foundational components of employee engagement.

A recent Gallup study, State of the American Workplace, found that only 33% of US-based employees are considered "engaged." The cost of unengaged employees in the US is between $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. And, as an employer, you don't want your employees to be jumping ship, yet over 51% of US employees say they are actively looking for a new job or openings.

The mindset and mentality of employees and the way they perform under your leadership is key. Employees now want engagement, transparency, and interaction from their leaders, who must create work environments that provide a support network to employees as they strive for off-the-chart results. Gallup's study found that only 4 in 10 employees think that their supervisor or someone at work cared about them.

It is no longer the norm to stay in one organization for the duration of one's career, and it's much easier to transition not only from job to job but also between industries. Considering such workforce fluidity, employers now have to work overtime to engage their staff; it's now a two-way relationship, and both parties need one another in order to achieve great results.

Let's take a look at three ways that employers can engage with—and work to successfully retain—staff.

Help your employees grow into successful professionals

The importance of building your employees' strengths is an easy concept if you believe in them as individuals. If they see that you support their decisions and work with them to succeed, they will soon start striving for—and attaining—great results. And giving credit where credit is due is of utmost importance.

As an employer or manager, put yourself in the employees' shoes: They want to succeed, grow, and create exceptional results so that you're happy and they feel as if they're a key player in meeting the business's goals. That said, you need to guide and encourage your team. When you have an effective strategy in place for doing so, results will follow. Monitoring success rates within your organization and mapping out your team's goals and an actionable approach for attaining them are direct ways to achieve maximum results—for both the short and the long term.

If you're in a managerial position, it's up to you to provide your team with the tools and inspiration to help them succeed. You must first make sure your team truly wants to take pride in their work and has the motivation needed to increase their performance levels. And one of the best methods to drive this is effective recognition and coaching. Just 3 in 10 employees thinks that someone is encouraging them actively.

As we noted, 67% of Americans aren't engaged in their work and don't feel connected to their jobs; often, that means they do only the bare minimum and produce low-level results. As an employer, it's in your best interest to bring employee engagement into the workplace.

Recruit internally and build on team morale

We spend 40+ hours, on average, at work each week, so it's vital that we be able to work collaboratively and effectively alongside our colleagues. When you're recruiting your team, keep an open mind: Teams with a diverse array of capabilities are able to combine their skills, energize one another, and create a positive working environment.

So why not look toward your current employees and their personal career goals and path to offer the option to apply for a new role? After all, they already know the systems, frameworks and understand the overall aim of the business ethos.

Recruiting internally will show your team you trust their professional expertise and believe they deserve to progress. It will also have long-term positive impacts on your business: Having employees work for you for a longer period of time and investing in them allows for progress to be monitored and professional relationships to prosper. Your current employees are more than likely a perfect fit for your team, because they've already been working within the business and understand your processes, vision, and culture. Hiring from within also keeps costs down and allows you, as a team leader, to keep budget aside for more training and growth opportunities.

A recent survey found that 60% of workers who were promoted into jobs performed far better than employees who were hired externally into similar roles.

Internal recruiting can have astonishing business ramifications and impact on employee morale.

Work perks can produce off-the-scale results

Work perks are a good way to get your employees feeling engaged at work. HR advocates swear by them.

So what perks really get employees feeling more engaged in their work?

Research into tech companies and the work perks they offer has found that many companies now offer a month's sabbatical. The company encourages employees to do something off their bucket list; in return, employees must report back on their learnings from the experience.

Flexible working hours and location can also improve employee engagement. Giving the opportunity for your employees to work in accordance with a timeline and schedule that suits them best will create a trusting relationship. As long as deadlines are met and the work meets high standards, this is a straightforward and efficient way to improve engagement levels. It can also contribute toward reducing turnover rates; many employees enjoy the flexibility and trust they're given, prompting loyalty toward their employers.

* * *

As a business, what's your overall aim? More often than not, in large part it's to increase sales. So, if your employees are engaged and that engagement converts into better employee performance, you can expect to see an increase in sales.

Ultimately, we should assume that employees will continue to seek higher engagement levels from employers. As a business owner, keep communications open with employees around what will continue to help them feel engaged at work: days off with family members? Further funding for training? More transparency in the workplace? Keep the feedback you receive in mind, and allow time to prepare for the future.

If you are always one step ahead of your employees and start to put yourself in their shoes, your engagement efforts will be rewarded with improved performance, happier staff, and a more successful business.

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Employee Engagement: Three Ways to Improve Your Strategy and Approach

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image of David Lloyd

David Lloyd is CEO of PostBeyond, an employee advocacy platform that enables companies to leverage the collective reach and influence of their employees' social networks to drive measurable business results.

LinkedIn: David Lloyd