Employee engagement levels keep trending downward. In 2022, Gallup noted that 18% of workers were actively disengaged. The ratio of engaged to actively unengaged employees—at 1.8-to-1—is the lowest its been in a decade. These findings indicate a deep disconnect between what workers want and what they’re getting from their employers.
Pew Research reporting on why employees resigned from positions in 2021 supports that hypothesis. What Pew found was that 63% of people left jobs where they hit a perceived career ceiling. In other words, they saw no avenues of career mobility. Therefore, they simply went somewhere else, ostensibly to find their personally rewarding “pot of gold.”
As a business leader, the last thing you want is for your team members to feel so disgruntled, disconnected, and dismayed that they resign. Yet it can be challenging to pinpoint exactly how to make sure your employees get enough purpose from what they do. Often, workers won’t say anything. Instead, they’ll allow their disenchantment to fester and grow until it compels them to say goodbye.
You don’t have to wait for that eventuality. There are many management methods out there that can help you create and nourish a more synergistic relationship with your employees. To find out what’s working for some of the most successful businesses, I tapped into the knowledge of three thought leaders. Feel free to leverage their insightful recommendations to boost your workforce satisfaction ratings and clamp down on preventable turnover.
1. Teach supervisors to engage in “job crafting” with their direct reports.
One of the main reasons that many employees become disillusioned at work is that they don’t see their futures in their job descriptions. Certainly, they may go about their tasks, but those tasks don’t hold any real meaning. They’re merely assignments rather than part of an important journey. This is where the practice of “job crafting” can be an asset.
If you’re not familiar with job crafting, Peter Boumgarden—Koch Family Professor of Practice in Family Enterprise, director of the Koch Family Center for Family Enterprise, and academic director of the Center for Experiential Learning at Washington University in St. Louis—has a great explanation.
“In this model, a supervisor would sit with the person they manage and seek to identify changes in the tasks of the work, the relational features of the job, or the way employees think about the work—broadly called task, relationship, and cognitive crafting,” Boumgarden says. “This kind of one-on-one conversation is one path toward ensuring strong goal alignment for those they manage.”
The most important aspect of job crafting is for the manager or supervisor to be willing to try different experiments to see what works for each direct report. For instance, one person might like to be given $500 and three days to pursue training on a topic that’s a personal passion. Another person might be more driven by the possibility of earning an annual $2,000 raise after meeting specific goals.
The point of job crafting is to increase an individual’s feeling of connection with what’s happening at work with what they really want to do in life. Frequently, employees have trouble seeing this kind of alignment. By talking openly with their supervisors about their occupational and personal aspirations, workers give their leaders a chance to make sure their current roles overlap with the roles they’d like to play later. As Boumgarden notes, fueling this type of overlap gives employees more reason to show up and perform at their highest levels.
2. Implement formal, corporate-backed mentorship programs.
I’m a firm believer in the power of mentoring to build resilient and energetic leaders and employees. Lori Dipprey is, too. Dipprey works as the Chief People Architect at consulting firm Pariveda, which she describes as having a people-centric business model that concentrates on developing individuals toward their fullest potential.
A significant aspect of working at Pariveda is getting the opportunity to engage in a personalized mentoring arrangement. “An individual’s career is at the center of what we do,” explains Dipprey. “Each individual receives a mentor that is fully invested in helping that team member develop as a person on their own journey. Most mentors only have three to four mentees so they can maintain a high-touch relationship.”
While Pariveda’s mentorships are organic in a sense, they follow a prescribed workflow. Mentors and mentees meet at least once and sometimes twice a month. Throughout the experience, they set goals and develop positive habits. Every six months, mentors and mentees set up objectives for the following six-month period.
Mentors act as sounding boards and guides to identify and encourage their mentees’ intrinsic motivators. That way, the mentees will be less likely to disengage. Dipprey goes on to say, “Employees are feeling more empowered to choose their own career path and choose a job that works with their personal goals. If they don’t believe their employer is invested in them and their personal aspirations, then they will move to a position where they can find that fulfillment.”
3. Recruit with alignment in mind from the start.
A good way to build a solid foundation with any employee is during recruitment. Bringing aboard people who are already keyed into your mission lowers the risk of a misalignment between their goals and your company’s purpose. At SnapCab—which manufactures innovative, easy-to-install alternative paneling for elevators and office pods—founder and CEO Glenn Bostock has set up a hiring process that’s meant to attract employees whose aspirations are likely to dovetail with the organization’s specific culture.
SnapCab’s recruiting system is unconventional, and Bostock feels that’s the reason it works so well. “Part of the process is that the candidates are required to watch about one hour of videos on our careers page that clearly outline SnapCab’s goals to grow the company in the form of employees collaborating together more like a community of friends with a similar interest to take care of our customers,” he notes. And the videos don’t end there.
To apply, all candidates are expected to create their own introductory videos. Bostock recalls the video he received from Steven, who is now an up-and-coming leader at SnapCab. What most impressed Bostock during Steven’s video was the way he articulated his desire to contribute. “He says, ‘I do not bring a lot of trade skills… my work has been in working with people… I am a man of integrity. I am willing to work hard. I am excited to learn new things… and use them to contribute to building something.’”
The company brought Steven on as a factory floor worker. Two years later, he’s part of the Employee Experience department and is on a study mission in Japan to become a Lean Manufacturing trainer. Yet it might not have happened without a robust recruitment process that assisted SnapCab in making more intentional hiring decisions for the good of its people and the aims of the company at large.
There’s no doubt that it takes time, patience, and commitment to restructure your business in a way that will result in more engaged employees. Your approach will also be tailored to best fit your company and its workers. However, it’s worth the effort and resources to construct a culture where everyone feels valued and lucky to be rowing in the same direction.