By Ming Wu on Aug 18, 2021 3:34:51 PM
HR professionals and leadership teams know the success of a business relies on their ability to engage their employees. Gallup reported that engaged employees lead to about 17% more profitability, 41% fewer absences, and up to a 59% reduction in employee turnover. Savvy leaders know that excellent customer experience starts on the inside, which means employee engagement ultimately has a significant impact on the bottom line.
What is an engaged employee?
Engaged employees are emotionally committed to the company’s ethos and mission. They see real value in their work and feel invested in the success of the business. An engaged employee uses their discretionary energy to build an outstanding product rather than stop at a good one. They choose to provide an exceptional service rather than one that is adequate. An engaged employee is also more committed to the company, is less likely to leave, and is more likely to seek out what they need to stay engaged. There are recurring elements present in engaged employees. An engaged employee is someone who:
- can relate to, feels represented by, and trusts the leadership
- is valued and supported
- feels involved in the bigger picture
- is appreciated as an individual
- communicates openly, has a voice, and is listened to
- is proud of their work and the company they work for
- sees a future with the company
5 ways in which inclusion boosts employee engagement
Diversity and inclusion are important drivers of employee engagement. SHRM went as far as to say that ‘Inclusive workplaces lead to engaged employees.’ Diversity and inclusion and employee engagement are so closely linked that they tend to exist together and one will seldom be present without the other. An inclusive workplace produces the elements of a highly engaged team, and an engaged team is likely to be an inclusive one. As more businesses recognize the relationship between inclusion, employee engagement, and success, there becomes a solid business case for commitment to an investment in inclusion initiatives.
So how can this be applied to business practices? Let’s explore five ways in which diversity and inclusion can cultivate the attributes of an engaged employee. If you are interested in grabbing more excellent employee engagement ideas, download our free guide.
#1 A diverse leadership team helps employees feel represented and connected
Employees who feel a positive connection to those at a senior level are more likely to feel motivated and engaged at work. So leadership teams need to offer something people can connect with. A diverse leadership team not only demonstrates a business’s inclusive attitude, which in itself can boost employee engagement, but it also offers employees more to connect with.
Employees are more likely to feel positive about a leader who shares something in common with themselves. This could be a physical characteristic such as gender, disability, or race. Employees can also perceive similarities if they share common values derived from a similar education, lived experiences, religion, or politics.
Shared, or relatable characteristics and values can give employees a sense that they and their interests are represented at a leadership level. They also feel connected with the bigger picture of the company they work for and people who feel part of something bigger than their own job, are more likely to feel engaged. People are also more likely to trust and believe those who they seem to be like themselves, so a diverse leadership can mean a more trusted one, and trust is also essential to employee engagement.
#2 Participation in inclusion initiatives foster feelings of value, wellbeing, and pride
Inclusion initiatives can be a powerful way to increase engagement but, to be effective, employees across an organization need to participate. Senior team members should be seen taking part in inclusion programs so coworkers at all levels feel comfortable doing so, too. The option to request assistive technology or specialist equipment, special leave days for cultural or religious festivals and pro-bono opportunities in the community are examples of inclusion initiatives that boost employee engagement.
For these initiatives to succeed, however, to really improve workplace inclusion and therefore employee engagement, people need to feel comfortable taking advantage of them. So, in addition to a diverse composition, the behavior of the leadership team is also important in driving employee engagement. Seeing senior staff work flexi-hours to accommodate childcare makes employees happier to do this too. When a manager waits until Monday to respond to emails, employees don’t feel they need to work at the weekend. When a C-level executive is committed to a Community Social Responsibility program, employees see this work being valued and feel they can invest their time and energy into something that is important to them, even though it is not part of their day-to-day job. By taking advantage of inclusion initiatives like these, and making a real commitment to supporting them, leaders gain credibility and trust as well as enabling employees to follow suit and enjoy the resulting benefits.
A credible, trustworthy leadership team that prioritizes employees’ wellbeing can be an important driver of employee engagement. So, too, are feelings of being valued, supported, and bring pride to the company we work for, which can all be nurtured by successful inclusion initiatives.
#3 Embracing individuality and tailored support increases autonomy, paving the way for recognition and pride.
Inclusive employers understand the importance of recognizing the individual strengths and needs of employees. They take the time to find out how they can support each team member to do their best work, which may be different for everyone. Providing employees with the right tools for them personally makes them feel supported, likely to succeed, and more comfortable with accountability.
Accountability is a powerful motivator and can lead to recognition and pride. Recognition, pride in one’s work, and the belief that a person’s individuality and contribution to the business are valued are all important factors in employee engagement. An employer who takes the time to ensure team members have the technology. training, mentorship, and the appropriate degree of autonomy to succeed, and who recognizes success when it happens, is likely to boost employee engagement.
#4 An inclusive approach to communication gives employees a voice and makes them feel involved
Employees who are encouraged to give feedback and ideas through a channel they are comfortable with and who feel their voice is heard are more likely to feel engaged. There are two things an employer must do to make this happen: provide opportunities and means for employees to give feedback, and then confirm they have been listened to.
Providing a variety of forums –such as one-to-ones, surveys, and town halls– allows employees with different communication styles and comfort levels to speak up. These opportunities can also be offered at different times to create a culture of communication, rather than a feeling that feedback is welcome only at the annual circulation of the employee survey.
As well as catering for personal communication styles, employers should also consider accessibility. Employees who are visually impaired may need a survey in a different format and a sign language interpreter would make a town hall meeting more accessible to a coworker with a hearing impairment. Similarly, companies who employ international teams should ensure team members have the proficiency in their common language to communicate their opinions effectively, perhaps by offering business English training.
In addition to being encouraged to share their opinions, engaged employees need to know they are being listened to. So once a coworker has given their feedback via their chosen method, the employer needs to assure them they have received their message and that they will take it into consideration. When addressing an issue or an idea raised by an employee, employers should clearly communicate the action being taken is a result of listening to team members. If no action is being taken in relation to a particular issue, it is still a good idea to acknowledge an issue has been raised and that a plan of action has not been decided on yet. This demonstrates that all voices are being listened to and encourages employees to keep communication open, which is another powerful driver of employee engagement.
#5 An inclusive approach to training and development creates equal opportunities, which encourages commitment
The opportunity to develop –personally and professionally– is crucial to employee engagement. To be engaged. a person must see a future for themselves at their workplace and being inclusive means employees receive training tailored to their needs. In terms of professional development, this means providing equal opportunities –which does not mean giving everyone the same training. Different people may have different areas they need to develop even if they do the same job or have similar career goals. This is because we are all individuals with unique interests, strengths, and areas in need of development. For example, to grow in their role or work towards a promotion, people may need different kinds of support. One employee might need IT training, whereas another may benefit from communications training. Another employee may need some funding or time off to complete a qualification or go to a conference to improve their knowledge and extend their network.
In terms of personal development, employees should be encouraged to share skills and knowledge that is not directly related to their role. Lunch ‘n’ Learn sessions where team members present on a topic of their choice (a hobby they enjoy, a non-profit they volunteer for, a cultural festival they celebrate, or raising awareness of an issue that is important to them), can not only foster a learning culture, which keeps people engaged, it also improves team relationships. Check out other +50 employee engagement strategies here. This inclusive approach to development feels fair. It means everyone has the chance to achieve their goals because they have the support that they need, not a generic version of it. This support and the ability to see a future with a company is what drives employee engagement.
As employers become more aware of the relationship between inclusion, employee engagement, and the resulting increase in profits, more companies are making a serious commitment to inclusion. However, the real value of diversity and inclusion and employee engagement stretches far beyond the bottom line. An engaged team not only works to increase revenue, but they are also fully committed to upholding the company’s values and to achieving their mission, which is equally, or in some cases, more important indicators of success.
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