American businesses are horrible at keeping their employees engaged. According to a recent Gallup poll, more than two-thirds of U.S. employees are not engaged at work. And what does that mean for you, CEOs?
Lower productivity, higher turnover, and more stress for you trying to recruit and retain new employees.
You can try all you like to buy engagement with raises, bonuses, free lunches, or more perks. But I’m telling you now: it won’t work. Engagement comes from intrinsic motivation, from a sense of accomplishment and recognition.
Here’s a Slideshare presentation that’ll discuss the benefits of intrinsic motivation and how it motivates your employees:
At Magoosh, we’ve found ways to keep everyone engaged and even — dare I say — happy. We have zero employee turnover, and we just received an award for being the happiest company in education.
Want to boost engagement in your office? Then suspend reality with me a moment.
Think of your company — you, your employees, mission, revenue, goals — as a video game. Now let’s walk through some problems your employees might be experiencing and see what practical lessons we can learn from going virtual.
Problem #1: Lack of challenging work
Imagine your employees and you are characters in this company video game we’ve just created, and you’re all starting Level 1. At first it’s challenging.
You make mistakes, losing a few lives along the way. But over time you get better and finally beat Level 1. You’re excited to tackle Level 2, only to face with Level 1 again. Okay no problem, you just beat it again.
Easy. But wait, then you have to play it again? And again … until you’ve all played it so many times you could beat it with your eyes closed. But there’s still no Level 2 in sight.
If your employees don’t encounter new challenges, they’ll feel like they’re playing Level 1 on repeat. They’ll lose interest in their work unless they have a chance to advance.
How to fix it
Identify the unchallenged employee. Find a brand new project that aligns with your company objectives, and then assign it to said employee, even if he or she has never tackled anything like it before.
This may feel like a risk, but it will ultimately engage your team and build valuable skills that will help your employees and you in the future.
How we do it
At Magoosh, each manager periodically checks in to gauge how challenged each person on their team feels using engagement apps. If a manager hears that an employee has hit a rut, they challenge them with a project.
For example, Zach, our lead engineer, has worked so much on web applications that he’s found that work less challenging over time.
It’s still a core part of his job, so he gets it done, but now he’s also working on a native mobile app—an area in which he has much less experience.
It’s something that was on our product roadmap, so we decided it would be a good opportunity for him to learn a new skill set and level up.
Problem #2: Lack of recognition
All right, that annoying Level 1 repeat bug is fixed and you’re back in the game now. This time, you and your team just beat a particularly difficult boss.
Bright, bold words flash across the screen! “You’ve leveled up!” Lights, sparks, music! You’re all filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Your game just acknowledged your success.
Back to the workplace. Employees also want recognition for a job well done. When a team member works until midnight to finish a project or puts in a lot of hours on a weekend, then doesn’t receive any form of acknowledgement, that’s demoralizing — definitely a cause for disengagement.
How to fix it
Set up systems or traditions in your office specifically designed to offer recognition.
How we do it
- Shout-Outs: At the end of every monthly company meeting, a PowerPoint slide pops up with a list of our core values. Employees then take turns giving shout-outs to their co-workers, acknowledging each other’s work in the past month and how it embodied specific core values. Public recognition is a great motivator. It keeps people engaged and encourages them before they dive into new challenges in the upcoming month.
- Pulse Surveys: We use employee pulse surveys to help us measure employee engagement and happiness on a weekly basis. Within the pulse survey app, there’s an option to give colleagues some positive feedback and recognize each other weekly.
- One-on-ones: In each manager’s weekly 1:1 with their direct reports, he or she has the opportunity to point out specific examples of jobs well done by each employee.
These systems helps us ensure that our team is always recognized for the great work and continue to feel engaged and fired up to complete new objectives.
Problem #3: Lack of alignment and purpose
Every video game — well, every good video game — follows some kind of story. Beginning, middle, end. If it didn’t, what would be the point? Put yourself back in your company’s game now.
Your team just beat that huge boss level and you’re still beaming. That is until everyone realizes you have no idea what the end goal to this game is or how many levels there actually are. Game over.
My guess is you’ve never come across a game where the end goal was unclear, yet in the workplace, leaders often neglect to paint a clear picture of where the company is headed and how each person’s work contributes to that goal. When employees don’t know how their work contributes, they start to feel disengaged — why am I doing this work?
How to fix it
Create clear, specific short- and long-term goals and explain to your employees how their work fits in with those goals.
How we do it
At Magoosh, we’ve created a 3-year plan (long term) and a 1-year plan (long, but shorter term) to help our team see where we’re headed, revisiting the plans periodically.
We also create quarterly plans with concrete themes and goals that contribute to the longer term plans, write them all in a Google Doc, and share them around the office.
Employees can directly see how their work and everyone else’s work contributes to the company’s long-term goals. This approach takes some work, but ultimately increases alignment and productivity.
There’s a reason video games are addicting: game designers deliberately add elements to the gameplay to keep players engaged.
In the same way, you should add deliberate elements to your workplace that keep employees engaged. Find the right balance of challenge, recognition, and purpose. Before you know it your employees will actually look forward to their work days.