According to the latest data from studies done by a global company, ADP, Singaporean employees are found to be highly resilient, but one of the least engaged in the world. The more worrying part of the story is that the engagement levels in Singapore have been steadily declining, dropping by 9% between 2018 and 2020. The global average decline in engagement levels during this same time period was just 1%. What this means to companies is that while the employees may be able to withstand challenging times, they are not likely to give their best at work.
In another report on 2020 Employee Experience: Singapore by Qualtrics, they also found that engagement rating in Singapore is below the numbers of many other major countries. The year 2020 has created major shifts in how people work and communicate with one another. It has created a gap and a new set of needs from the employees that need to be addressed.
After spending the year 2020 helping our clients navigate their people challenges from the pandemic and partners and having seen what the data on engagement is showing us, there are three key strategies that companies should adopt to ensure their employees remain happy and productive.
Strategy #1 – Culture
Developing a culture of accountability, recognition, and collaboration across teams.
We had the privilege of working with one of our clients in late 2019 where the leadership team sets out to develop their organisation culture that will help them boost performance, attract new talents, and retain their current ones. We did not know the pandemic was coming, obviously, but the timing of our programme couldn’t have been better. Not only did they manage to increase their headcount, but they also saw an increase in productivity in 2020 despite the market situation.
What stood out from the journey we had with this organisation was the three key culture points they developed in their 12-week journey with us: accountability, recognition, and collaboration.
Accountability was a key culture point that helped many of our clients significantly improve their employee engagement level. When the employees feel accountable to their leaders, to one another, and to themselves, most companies see an increase in productivity and it injects additional boost of energy to the organisation.
According to the Employee Experience report, having a leader who consistently acknowledges your good work is the number one driver for employee retention. On the flipside, lack of recognition is one of the top drivers for employee disengagement. While many companies adopt the technological approach where they can do this recognition online, we have found that when recognition is given directly in a sincere and heartfelt manner, it still has an added impact.
One of the most inspiring stories we heard from a client was when he shared how during the difficult times in 2020, one of the best things that happened that really helped the company was that the leaders were creating projects and initiatives across the different teams. This really helped the whole organisation thrive and keep everyone included.
Strategy #2 – Connection
Creating a sense of belonging and meaningful connections.
After the global crisis last year, new drivers for employee engagement have surfaced. The top driver for the year is the sense of belonging, and it rose straight from not even being in the top five to the number position. The other factor that has emerged is a sense of pride in the company’s endeavours to create a positive impact.
It seems that after last year where a lot of employees felt a sense of feeling ‘disconnected’, that sense of belonging and meaningful connection became something people appreciate a lot more. This is why proactive efforts in developing these are now absolutely invaluable.
To facilitate this, you can start small by organising team activities that allow team members to get to know each other at a more personal level, be it through informal get-together or structured facilitated sessions. In our experience, these efforts must be consistently done over a period of time. One-time interventions may be fun and inject some energy, however, they may not be as effective in forging long lasting connections.
We also encourage leaders of the organisation to dare to be authentic and vulnerable. This way, it will set the precedence for the people on the ground to have that courage to connect with one another too. As a team, creating this sense of belonging and meaningful connections has been one of our favourite parts of the journeys we have with clients.
Strategy #3 – Communication
Improving open communication and alignment from the leadership team
There is a finding from the various researches that when there is an environment that encourages open dialogues and various feedback conversations, it improves engagement, the feeling of well-being, as well as the employees’ intent to stay with the organisations.
This brings us to our third strategy, which is to build that environment where there are regular conversations on what can be improved within the organisation for everyone’s benefit, and that the employees feel safe psychologically to provide authentic feedback.
The second part of the equation is that these feedback conversations are not just heard, but also acted upon. When feedback is taken seriously and there are tangible actions taken as a result of the input, it results in a significant boost of that engagement level, happiness, and retention.
For this strategy, you may want to discuss how best to create a regular exercise where there are open dialogues, and foster the environment where employees would feel safe voicing their opinion authentically. To do this effectively, it has to start from the top. When the leaders show that they value input and constantly communicate intentions behind their decisions, it will help build that environment where you can get employees to take more ownership and feel more motivated.
This is not an exhaustive list, and I am sure there are a lot more that we can implement to help boost employee engagement for this year. However, I do personally feel that if you can implement these three strategies effectively, it would already be a great move towards the right direction.
If you are looking for proven solutions and you see the value in involving external facilitators to help you with your employee engagement strategies for your company, feel free to drop me a message for a chat over coffee to see if we can help you develop the right strategy for your engagement objectives in 2021!