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How to make sure that your employees are focused, motivated, and engaged


Every organization has its own distinct culture, shaped by its values, priorities, the people who work there, and much, much more. These factors mix together to naturally form the makeup of a company’s everyday environment—its work culture. What’s considered a healthy work culture? It’s one where employees feel valued, safe, comfortable, and flush with opportunity for growth. In a partnership with The Ladders, we took a close look at some of the factors that affect employees’ career decisions—many of which can strongly affect work culture. Using proprietary survey techniques, we’ve asked thousands of people from across the U.S. about the issues they care most about in their careers.

We’ve learned that a happier workforce makes for more productive employees, and successful managers are constantly assessing employee satisfaction. If you are not focused on making sure that your employees are happy in their jobs and with your overall company, then you may just find that you are having difficulty retaining current employees and attracting the most qualified new ones. Here are a few simple steps for creating a healthier work culture at your company.

You can’t have a positive culture without inclusion. Our end-to-end guide includes free templates and expert advice for building an inclusive company culture.

Employee engagement—having employees who are “emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace”—is crucial to creating positive employee relationships and a successful bottom line. A recent Gallup Poll found that only one-third of the American workforce feels engaged at work. They also found that highly engaged employees are 17% more productive and have a 41% lower rate of absenteeism. In order to increase employee engagement, you can:

  • Hire and develop great managers. A healthy work culture starts at the top.
  • Provide managers with the resources they need. With the proper resources for hiring the right people, your managers can in turn build effective teams that are motivated and engaged.
  • Set clear, achievable goals—together. Employees need to be clear on the goals set for them as individuals, for their team, and for your company. In order to be meaningful, these goals need to relate to their daily experiences and be ones that they believe are actually attainable. When employees are involved in goal setting, it makes them almost four times more likely to feel engaged at work.

Measure first, address second. You can’t fix issues you don’t know about. It’s a good idea to begin by simply asking employees how engaged they feel about their work and workplace. A simple survey can provide you with essential information about how involved your employees currently feel at work. Context is often really important here. Think about how your results compare to other companies that are your size or in your industry.

Employee turnover has always been a concern for employers, particularly in businesses like the restaurant industry. However, historically there have been companies and careers where employees stayed for 20 years or longer.

More recently, however, resumes are more likely to reflect one or two-year stretches at multiple companies. Half of the employees surveyed in a recent Gallup Poll said they were looking for a new job or keeping an eye out for better opportunities, and 35% had changed jobs during the previous three years. In order to increase employee retention, you can:

  • Incorporate regular, fair pay raises. Many employees who are actively job hunting are looking for a pay increase, so making sure that you incorporate routine raises to keep your pay rates competitive with other companies is essential.
  • Provide opportunities for upward mobility. Many employees who choose to leave a job –particularly millennials– do so because they feel they haven’t been offered appropriate opportunities to advance in their careers.
  • Make them feel secure. One of the primary reasons that employees look for or take a new job is to find job stability. Workers leave when there are frequent firings or a sense that jobs depend on randomly set goals on the whims of management.

Today’s employees want more than a set five-day workweek or eight-hour workday. The job benefits that employees currently care most about are those that provide them with greater flexibility including telecommuting, four-day workweeks, and/or flexible hours where they can come in at any time as long as they stay and work for the appropriate number of hours.

  • Our research consistently finds that flexible scheduling and work-from-home options affect decisions to take or leave a job.
  • Over half of employees say they would change jobs for flextime.
  • 37% of workers would be willing to move to a different job where they can work offsite at least part of the time.

While once-yearly performance reviews used to be the standard, the one-sided design of these interactions is giving way to more progressive forms of employee communication. What today’s workers want is ongoing feedback, clearly communicated goals, and a collaborative work environment which they feel is fair, relevant, and encouraging. You can improve communication in a few easy steps.

  • Check in often. Frequent, informal contacts with managers allow employees to understand how their daily work is linked to your company’s goals. Our data shows that employees who talk about their goals and successes with their manager at least every six months are almost three times more likely than other employees to feel engaged and motivated in their job.
  • Be available. This means more than just being there when your employees have questions, problems, or concerns. When communicating with employees, make sure that they feel heard by clarifying and rephrasing what they say to make certain that you really understand and hear them. Empathize with them, and let them know that you appreciate their frustrations and will support them in overcoming work-related problems.

Companies today need their employer brand—their reputation as an employer—to be as strong as their customer brand. Unfortunately, many overlook their employer brand entirely, or devote little or no resources to building and strengthening it. While companies don’t need to invest as much money into their internal brand as they may need to invest in their external marketing efforts, they do need to give their employer brand more attention.

A strong employer brand attracts and retains workers. It turns them into advocates for your company and it differentiates you from the competition. This is particularly important in a technological era of heightened competition and constant connectedness. Companies like Glassdoor offer company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reports, interview reviews and questions, benefits reviews, and more. This gives anyone the ability to see how former and current employees rate your organization, meaning job candidates are literally able to shop around for the jobs and companies that they like believe will meet their needs and make them happiest. Employees have become the consumers of the workplace.

There’s no simple solution for fixing or improving work culture, it requires momentum, time, and buy-in from managers across your company. However, the payoff of happy, engaged employees that a healthy work culture helps bring is practically invaluable.

Whatever steps you take to make your workplace more healthy, you’ll want to be able to evaluate how your employees feel about their work environment. You’ll find that at SurveyMonkey, we offer a wealth of information, survey templates, and even a custom built solution to help you create a healthier, more positive work culture.

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