Forty-seven million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s a staggering number—and cause for concern for every business owner. The people we hire to keep organizations running at every level are arguably our most valuable resources, so understanding what motivates employees in today’s increasingly hybrid and remote work culture is imperative to building long-standing teams and a successful business.
Helping your employees feel more engaged and connected to their work improves happiness, performance, and overall productivity. After all, employees will want to stay and put forth their best efforts if they enjoy not only their job but also the work environment. With that in mind, there are several principles that we follow at Igloo Software, a leading provider of digital workplace solutions, to encourage employee engagement. These tips can prove useful for any organization.
Ensure that management is engaged
A 2022 Gallup Workplace report shows that only one in three managers are currently engaged at work—and that can have a contagious effect on how the entire team feels and operates. A 2021 study by Kincentric found “disengaged leaders actually neutralize the effectiveness of HR practices that are designed to create positive experiences and favorably impact employee engagement and motivation.”
Managers are often the middle layer between individual contributors and executive leadership, so it’s essential that they feel aligned with the company’s mission, voice, and goals.
There are many things we do at Igloo to align management with our company goals and keep our team leaders engaged, including hosting one-day workshops to equip leaders with the tools and skills needed to promote a unified culture. “With that guidance, Igloo managers continually embrace change, new ideas, and methods of growth for all team members,” says Karen Campbell-Jones, Igloo Software’s director of growth marketing.
Communicate effectively and frequently across channels
To build trust and improve employee engagement, effective and frequent communication is a must. Unfortunately, the Gallup report states that less than half of remote workers currently know what is expected of them, which indicates a communication lapse between employees and management at all levels.
Leaders across an organization are responsible for communicating regularly with employees; it’s not a “one and done” situation when it comes to communication. The absence of effective communication ultimately prevents employees from feeling part of a unified team.
It may be challenging to maintain effective communication in the remote or hybrid workforce setting, but it’s not impossible. Employees have various styles of communication that should be taken into consideration. Leveraging different channels to communicate—verbally, visually, in writing, and in person—helps ensure everyone is aware of employee needs and company objectives.
For example, at Igloo, our CEO posts a seven- to 10-minute video every Monday morning to provide key business updates, such as new customer wins or renewals, and reiterates company objectives, corporate project updates, employee shout-outs, and more. When an employer provides adequate resources for open communication, employees will feel connected and have increased engagement.
Provide digital and physical workspaces
Investing in flexible digital workplace solutions, like intranet software (a private network that can be accessed only by employees), allows employees to tailor their communication experience to what works best for them, from sending a quick chat to delivering a mass email, no matter where they’re located. Igloo uses our own digital workplace solutions to connect employees and share messages with every part of the organization.
Aside from providing the right digital communication tools, offering opportunities for employees to meet in person further enables them to socialize and collaborate. At Igloo, we set time to gather throughout the year and collaborate on current projects and upcoming plans. Human connection is essential for a collaborative work culture, so companies should encourage employees to meet in person to brainstorm and network periodically, even for fully remote jobs. Having a physical office—such as one in a WeWork building, where employees can come together and do that—is vital.
“Being remote makes our get-togethers special and thus exciting, but also far more productive than how they were before,” says Lindsay Pasichnyk, Igloo’s manager of visual design and implementation. “[Having] these in-person opportunities as the exception to the rule—instead of the rule itself—is the balance my team and I need mentally, and the productivity needed to progress the work we are doing efficiently.”
Listen to employee feedback and take action
Strong, effective communication goes both ways. There should be methods in place to allow employees to offer feedback about what’s going well and where there’s room for improvement. Employee engagement is higher when people feel comfortable enough to share their experiences and believe that their ideas and opinions matter to the organization. One way to gauge engagement is through surveys.
At Igloo, we distribute multiple engagement surveys throughout the year. That survey is then used to determine pain points and formulate strategies to improve the employee experience.
“The twice-yearly surveys let us set reasonable expectations about the pace of progress and how feedback is incorporated into the planning cycle,” says Jim Tigwell, manager of customer support at Igloo.
The surveys proved extremely useful amid the pandemic. “During lockdown, it was the surveys that drove the shift to hybrid work, rather than trying to move everyone back to the office,” Tigwell says.
Encourage work-life balance
Employees have become more vocal about their need for better work-life balance. A 2021 Joblist survey found that 30 percent of workers would sacrifice a portion of their pay for a greater work-life balance, with parents willing to take a nearly 5 percent reduction in pay.
At Igloo, we encourage flexibility and respect employee boundaries. Employees are empowered to take time off whenever they need to, and no one is pressured to work overtime or on the weekends.
“As someone with a young family at home, the ability to book appointments throughout the day or pick up the kids early from daycare if something arises is a great comfort,” says Chad Trakalo, a performance marketing manager at Igloo. “Life can be unpredictable, and knowing that all I need to do is make up the hours afterward allows me to be there for my family without concerns about how much time off I have available.”
Invest in and recognize employees
Investing in employees is more than just offering a competitive salary, though that does help. Providing continued education and hands-on training—whether an employee is new or has been there for years—is another excellent way to invest in your employees and increase their overall engagement.
Recognition is another powerful way to make sure employees feel valued and have a job with purpose. At Igloo Software, we have a quarterly “Northern Lights” award that spotlights employees who truly go above and beyond. These accolades are shared company-wide so that everyone, from the C-suite to entry-level team members, is aware of the recognition.
Overall, the “work first” mentality has faded, and employees are gauging whether a job is worth their time beyond a regular paycheck. By having management that’s aligned with the company’s vision, employing effective communication strategies, and genuinely considering employees’ needs, you can make sure your employees—the heart of the business—are actively engaged and have every reason to stay, instead of dragging their feet and eventually taking their talents elsewhere.
Kristen Ruttgaizer is chief people officer at Igloo Software, where she uses her 20 years of experience to shape the variety of employee and leadership programs at Igloo. In her role, Ruttgaizer provides human resources expertise in global organizational design, implementing global HR programs and initiatives, and is a trusted adviser providing influential leader and employee coaching to foster a positive employee culture. Ruttgaizer was featured on Human Resources Director Canada’s 2018 Hot List, and has been recognized as a professional who is reshaping the future of HR in Canada. Recently, Ruttgaizer and her team were named 2022 Canadian HR Team of the Year (fewer than 500) by HRD Canada and Canadian HR Reporter for their outstanding collaborative partnership across the business and for being among the most forward-thinking HR professionals across the nation.