Does your workplace have the foundation for an engaged workforce?

Companies should make sure employees have a positive relationship with their managers and colleagues

By Sathee Brent,

Although employers tout employee engagement as a major part of the workplace, they may miss the mark when it comes to knowing what workers want and how to meet employees' needs to keep them satisfied with their jobs. A 2014 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found engagement remained the same in 2013 from the previous year, staying at 81 percent. This indicates a steady decline over the years after reaching 86 percent in 2009. To help maintain healthy levels of job satisfaction, companies should make sure they have a firm foundation of the following to improve employee engagement:

1. Friendly and supporting job environment
One of the most important factors in whether employees are engaged is if they have a good relationship with their colleagues and managers, according to SHRM's survey. The study revealed 54 percent of respondents said their relationship with their immediate supervisor was very important to them. About 41 percent said their relationships with co-workers also played a role in job satisfaction. The results indicate that employees value the importance of having positive interactions with their supervisors and colleagues since they need to work together to increase productivity and sales. 

TLNT magazine said companies could make it a point during the onboarding process for employees to be friendly with one another. In addition to a welcoming workplace, managers should also step up in their role as a sales coach. To cultivate a good work environment for employees, managers should make sure they serve as coaches for workers. Being a coach means encouraging employees to reach for higher sales targets and improve their performance, managers can help boost employee confidence and as a result, job satisfaction. 

2. A competitive salary
In addition to having a great relationship with the people they interact with on a daily basis, the SHRM survey respondents said another important part of engagement is being paid a competitive salary. Compensation was the No. 1 most critical factor of employee engagement with 60 percent of respondents choosing this option. Before posting compensation rates in a job listing or discussing pay with a potential candidate, companies should research salary levels for employees with the same qualifications and experience to ensure they pay all workers the market value. Employees - across all generations - value compensation because it could convey their worth in the company. 

"Compensation/pay was either the top or second-rated aspect of job satisfaction of four different generations of employees (millennials, Generation X, baby boomers and veterans)," the SHRM survey read. "It was also cited as one of the top three job satisfaction contributors among several employee categories (nonexempt, professional and mid-management)."

With younger employees joining the workforce, companies should also make sure to offer compensation that reflects employee performance and the value they bring to their firms. 

3. Career development opportunities
Finally, employees crave opportunities to enhance their skills and move up within the company. Firms should provide career development opportunities through training and mentorship that focuses on the abilities employees want to improve. Companies are more likely to meet their own business objectives if they give employees the training and tools to raise the bar - in many cases, their sales targets - and build on current skills. A survey by Harvard Business Review found 52 percent of respondents believed training and development are important to increasing employee engagement. Companies could consider learning from other firms to improve career development among the workforce. 

"Look at other teams, other industries to come up with best practices," a banking chain regional director in North America told HBR. "Then, it becomes practice sharing. Tie that into employees' annual performance reviews. Encourage managers to talk about development during those one-on-ones throughout the year."

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Sathee Brent