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A Happier Workplace: Tips for HR Leaders Looking for More Employee Engagement

A Happier Workplace: Tips for HR Leaders Looking for More Employee Engagement

February 14, 2019
Submitted By Penelope Brackett

The American Institute of Stress says that 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half of those employees say they need help learning how to manage stress. Everywhere you look online, people are giving advice to employees to help them manage their stress levels. However, since the workplace is the source of that stress, it seems incumbent upon organizational leaders to ensure they’re doing everything they can to create a healthy and happy workplace.

As the new owners of employee engagement and workplace culture, HR leaders are looking for ways to better establish happier workplaces for employees. While the imperative is clear, the way forward is fraught with confusion and roadblocks. The challenge for many HR professionals is the desired result is too far away from the current situation to get a good foothold on beginning the journey. Daunted by the enormity of the task, many HR departments are leaving this part of the HR function to a future date.

Instead of waiting for increased employee bail outs, HR leaders can start by taking small steps toward reducing stress and creating a balanced work environment. Turn your workplace from a toxic work environment into a place that promotes well-being, relieves stress, and promotes better productivity and engagement.

Here are five simple things you can DO NOW:

Foster care and respect

Emotional intelligence is becoming more important than IQ in the world of business and respect is the recognized currency in emotional intelligence. In the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz surveyed the most important leadership behaviors across employees. Hands down, respect won out. Respect included doing the small things like saying good morning or giving people complete attention in a conversation or presentation. Respect has a way of filtering down the organizations as does its opposite. A company that practices respect reaps the benefits of engagement and retention as well as attracting top talent. Furthermore, Schwartz’ study revealed greater focus and well as better health from employees who felt respected.

Related content: Emotional Intelligence: A Top Ranked Skill for Employees

You may know the adage, people join companies, but they leave managers. The myth of the brilliant tough talking manager has been debunked. Turns out employees recognize a warm and respectful leader as well as the most competent. Here are four strategies to foster respect among managers and individual contributors alike.

  1. Be a role model. We’ve all heard “Be the change you want to see.” Every action begets another action. Be willing to be the first domino.
  2. Do the small thing. Turns out please and thank you really do matter, as well as actively thinking about how you can use your skills to make things a little easier for the person next to you.
  3. Give people complete attention. That means simply putting your cell phone down, lifting your eyes up and a waiting longer before offering your opinion.
  4. Disagree without disrespect. Some call this “radical candor.” It refers to being honest in your feedback, while acknowledging the person’s point of view.

Encourage self-care

Investing in your employees’ health will allow them to bring their best selves to work each day. Healthy employees take fewer sick days and are more positive and productive at work. Employees tend to be happier when they know they are supported by their employer, creating a better relationship and connection to their organizations.

Start a healthy workplace initiative with these 3 employee incentives and reminders:

  1. Take a 7th Inning Stretch. Send suggestions for hourly stretching exercises that can be done at work – and even from desks or workstations.
  2. Take a meeting out in the sun. Encourage walking work meetings or getting out of the office for lunch. Exercise and sunshine have clear physical and emotional benefits and are recognized to increase creativity.
  3. Discover the right workout. Consider gym memberships, Fitbit office-wide 7-minute workouts, or “Take the Stairs” initiative. Create an internal contest to motivate employees.

Related content: How to Build Healthier Work Environments

Acknowledgement and recognition

Employees want to feel proud and acknowledged for the work they do. We typically spend 8+ hours at work and we want to feel our contribution is valued. Because so much goes on behind the scenes, often individual efforts are not visible to the larger organization. Be sure your organization has more than one way to reward and recognize employees.

In addition to manager recognition, consider implementing a way for employees to recognize each other for going above and beyond their daily duties. At the corporate level, HR leaders can establish appreciation and recognition programs that acknowledge when employees do something good.

Here are three acknowledgement possibilities:

  1. See something, say something. This phase was coined to recognize and acknowledge danger. Turn it around to focus on acknowledging employees in the moment.
  2. Spread the word on intranet or internet platform. Encourage employees to acknowledge their peers for actions that garner values discussed in this article: respect (“Superior Listening”), self-care (Fitbit Award), career development (Mentoring), greater good (Volunteer hours or impact).
  3. Offer awards or benefits to celebrate accomplishments in line with company values. Simple acknowledgments like “Employee of the Month” or lunch out with the team still work!

Embrace career development

The market is constantly changing and success means embracing the change. Career longevity no longer means employees stay in the same role doing the same things their whole careers. It means understanding individual skills, strengths, and passions and seeking out the best application of those to strengthen the company and answer the needs of the market. HR can provide essential support in accessing coaching and training to transition into the best career fit for our changing world.

Related content: How Does Career Coaching Work?

The more you invest in providing employees with opportunities to learn and grow, the more they feel valued. Instead of limiting your career development and growth opportunities to your senior management and high potential employees, invest in the rank and file.

Here are three ways to encourage career development:

  1. Train managers in coaching skills. Coaching orients around growth rather than a traditional results orientation. It focuses on utilizing the employee’s skills and passions for maximum satisfaction and impact for the individual and the organization.
  2. Provide mentoring and cross-training programs. These programs foster relationships and company connection, while enhancing skills, opportunities and impact.
  3. Encourage employees to develop skills through networking and shadowing opportunities. Similar to mentoring opportunities, networking and shadowing provides for individual development as well as cross-department collaboration.

Bring people together

When employees make personal connections with their teammates and managers, they feel a sense of belonging that translates to greater engagement. When managers choose to keep themselves locked inside their offices and only interact with employees to discuss work-related matters, people begin to feel de-humanized and disconnected. The coaching skills mentioned above--which focus on asking questions rather than giving answers--will help managers connect more personally to employees.

Related content: Eight Ways HR Has Evolved to Put People First

People are happier when they engage with others on a personal level. Make that level of engagement part of your corporate culture. In addition to making connections between employees and managers, here are three ways to help employees connect with each other.

  1. Host all-company events to bring together different departments and levels.
  2. Encourage the virtual donut meeting. Employees eat a donut or drink a green shake and chat about personal things like the kids or their next vacation.
  3. Take a peer break. Sometime back there was a New York Times story, which reported employees who took cigarette breaks were happier and more effective. It turns out it wasn’t the nicotine, it was the chat with their fellow workers. After a break, people are refreshed, more creative, and more productive. Encourage employees to lose the cigarette but keep the time. Don’t be worried about lost productivity during breaks. They’ll make-up the time in energy and engagement.

Contribute to the greater good

Beyond completing the tasks associated with their individual roles, employees want to feel like their work lives have purpose and that they are somehow contributing to something greater. Philanthropic endeavors can meet that need, as well as providing another outlet for bringing people together from varied areas and levels in the company. People can share their skills, such as providing business analysis or graphic design for a non-profit, provide hands-on assistance such as sorting food bank goods, or raise money by running in a marathon.

Encourage employees to initiate committees or offer suggestions to lead philanthropy projects that contribute to something for which they are passionate. Have your organization provide paid time off for employees to volunteer.

Investing in employees yields a significant return. A few chosen steps will reward the company with miles and miles of energy, engagement and performance. What will be your first step?

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