Is employee engagement a lost cause?

by Nicky Budd-Thanos, on July 9, 2019

One of the biggest challenges of managing teams in a consumer-focused services organization is getting them to feel connected to and engaged with the company. Many of your employees are likely part-time workers who may not think of their current role as a long-term career opportunity. Nevertheless, employee engagement can be a highly effective lever for business success.

Employee engagement ≠ employee satisfaction
First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that employee engagement is not the same thing as employee satisfaction. This distinction is critical, because “satisfaction” is often a one-way road. People feel may feel content when their expectations, needs, and desires are met. However, even if your employees are satisfied with a raise, an opportunity to earn extra hours, or simply an easy commute, that doesn't necessarily mean they're engaged.

The Merriam-Webster definition of engagement is an “emotional involvement or commitment.” In other words, engaged employees are those who thoughtfully participate in their jobs. It's a two-way street. Of course you want your team to be satisfied, but in order to take your business to the next level, what you really need is for frontline teams to be truly empowered to contribute.

Low engagement = high turnover
This is key because your team’s engagement is directly related to employee retention. According to restaurant industry insights provider, Transforming Data into Knowledge (TDn2K), 92% of engaged employees plan to work for the same employer in one year, as compared to 56% of disengaged workers.

Unfortunately, turnover is a very expensive, time-consuming problem. It requires you to constantly recruit, hire, and train new team members, which the Cornell Hospitality Report says could cost nearly $150,000 a year in hard costs, opportunity costs, and lost productivity.

Interestingly, TDn2K found engagement to have more of an influence on a worker’s decision to stay in their role than any other driver, including their salary, commute, perks, benefits, etc. While each of these factors plays a role in employee satisfaction, at the end of the day, engagement is what keeps people in their jobs and performing at their best.

Why engagement matters
Companies with engaged employees are also far more likely to deliver on their financial objectives than those with disengaged staff. TDn2K’s research notes that restaurant managers with engaged teams report 41% lower absenteeism, 70% fewer accidents, a 24% decline in turnover and, conversely, much higher productivity (24%) and sales (20%).

When employees feel engaged with the organization’s mission, they go above and beyond because their job becomes more than just a way to earn a paycheck. People show up for their shifts, serve customers happily, and contribute more to every aspect of store operations.

3 strategies to engage your team
Although issues with disengagement are well established, best practices for improving engagement and retention are not always obvious. What gets one team member excited about coming to work won’t necessarily have the same result for another person. Multiply this by dozens of coworkers in teams across widespread geographical locations, and it’s exceedingly difficult for general managers and above-store leaders to engage everyone.

That said, higher levels of engagement are possible (and well worth the effort). We’ve seen many clients achieve great success by using Crew to intentionally engage their staff in the following ways:

1. Connect the disconnected
Organizations made up of siloed locations, teams, or shifts often grapple with lackluster engagement. By using a mobile solution to communicate with your team regularly, you can keep everyone on the same page, facilitate authentic relationship building, and help people feel like they’re part of the bigger picture. Since TDn2K says employees are 59% more likely to be engaged themselves when their boss is engaged, involvement from the top down can have an immediate impact. For example, one of the general managers at Carisch, a 65-unit Arby’s franchisee group, encourages her frontline teams to connect by sending each other birthday wishes on Crew, awarding Gold Stars, or simply sharing entertaining GIFs.

2. Make people’s work feel meaningful
In a recent study by BetterUp, more than nine out of 10 employees said they’d trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. But is it really possible to bring purpose to a job as a cashier or line cook, especially one that’s more seasonal? Several of our clients do this by emphasizing customer-centric values and celebrating how specific attitudes and behaviors move the needle when it comes to customer satisfaction. One case in point is Photogenic Inc., a 40-location photography business with a largely seasonal workforce that uses Crew to share progress updates on the company’s “service score,” which has jumped 15% as a result, while employee retention grew 33%.

3. Recognize great work
Frequent employee recognition creates a snowball effect of positivity, and helps cultivate a thriving, cohesive culture. Another customer, 300-location Taco Bell franchisee K-MAC, uses Crew to publicly highlight things like the fastest service in a district, great customer surveys and training completions. K-MAC’s growth leader, Cathy Blankman, notes that “Crew fuels employee engagement, because people have the full picture of what’s expected of them and are motivated to do quality work.”

We love hearing stories like this. What are your favorite ways to nurture engagement, loyalty, and retention across the organization? Tweet us and share what works for you.

Topics:Best PracticesEmployee RecognitionEmployee Engagement