4 Areas Critical to Engaged, Happy Employees

Employee engagement has become a hot topic and rightfully so. Happy workers are better for business. According to Gallup, engaged workers are more productive and less likely to leave, so it makes good business sense to engage meaningfully with employees and take their well-being seriously.

However, studies show we still have a ways to go. For example, a recent survey by Harris for the American Psychological Association finds employees are less than satisfied with their work environment, but are also less trustful of their bosses. In fact, only about half of employed adults in the U.S. feel their employers are fully open and upfront with them.

Trust is critical to happy relationships in all aspects of our lives, and especially at work. I am convinced that if we, as employers, take more time to get to know and listen to our staff members, we'll promote better employer-employee relationships and ultimately a more prosperous business. And these new relationships should begin even before day one on the job.

At Fuze, I try to interview every candidate before we hire them. I'm looking for a set of competencies that stimulate engagement among employees and between management and staff, passion for both winning AND customer success, and qualities that will help foster an even better company culture. I also want to establish a connection and the type of open dialogue we aspire to create throughout the organization.

Once we hire great talent, it is important they feel connected to our mission and a productive part of the culture. Some examples I have found effective are leading a monthly all-hands meeting that includes open discussion. One of my favorite ways of fostering open discussion is through a monthly roundtable luncheon with a random group of employees, rotating attendance each month. The idea is to meet face to face to share successes and surface issues before they become problems, engendering greater mutual trust.

Overall, I think there are at least four critical areas to engaging employees with their work and their management:

1. Managers need to listen more. Meet both formally and informally with your employees on a more frequent basis. Institute an open-door or open-line policy so that "talking with the boss" becomes, not an intimidating challenge, but an open invitation. Understand the roles within your company so you can understand the roadblocks your employees may face, and help deal with those obstacles from the employee's perspective.

2. Provide flexible workspaces and hours. At Fuze, we are fortunate in this regard, because we build a tool that helps facilitate remote working. However, a range of easily accessible online technologies are available that can provide flexibility, improve work-life balance, while incidentally improving attitudes of those who don't need to arrive at the office frustrated or exhausted from a difficult commute. Working remotely doesn't just mean working from home. We encourage employees to work from places that inspire, such as a customer's office where they can live in their shoes.

3. Align around a common mission and goals. People find more meaning and satisfaction when they understand how their work contributes to the common goal. When teams feel like they are truly in it together, it creates stronger bonds, improves information sharing and fosters a willingness to help others, which is critical to accomplishing goals. As managers, it is important to continually drive this alignment through regular progress updates, recognition, examples of shared successes, lessons learned, etc.

4. Evaluate your employee perks to find which are most valuable to your staff. We offer a number of opportunities for employees to stay healthy: healthful snacks, standing desks, gym reimbursements, healthy cooking classes, free lunch, afternoon stretching breaks, and even kayaks for recreation in some offices. It's important to find ways to have fun that your employees agree upon. For us, it's rock climbing, table tennis, mud runs, off-site happy hours and regular philanthropic activities.

Measure the success of your employee engagement programs through regular employee surveys, productivity figures, activity attendance rates, retention rates and other data-driven methods that provide objective assessments of your efforts. Be prepared to share the results and act on them to show employee feedback is heard and drives action.

Employee happiness means more than an easy-going workplace. It means better attitudes toward customers and more enthusiasm on the job, leading to more innovation and a more successful business overall. In our fast-paced world, we often forget to stop and listen to those who ultimately determine the success of our business, our employees. Doing so will go a long way in building the satisfaction and trust workers desire and the engagement your business needs.