With a CIPD survey highlighting that less than half (39%) of staff are engaged with their job, the more enlightened leaders are those who understand the real benefits of creating a truly engaged workforce. Fostering a positive two-way working environment, one in which employees are given autonomy, trust and a licence to make an impact, is the key to unlocking added discretionary effort, improved business performance, and employee happiness.   

A valued workforce is an engaged workforce  

It’s blinkered, and even patronising, to assume employees are solely motivated by transactional rewards such as salaries, as appreciation and impact are also key drivers. Employees are no different from management, they want to know their input is valued and that their contribution is an important part of something bigger for the business.   

It’s been more than 60 years since Abraham Maslow proposed his hierarchy of needs - a psychological theory that highlighted the importance of “belonging, trust and acceptance” as essential basics.   

How can an organisation practically deliver on these needs and unlock the associated motivation, satisfaction and unity? At Play, we believe it’s essential to re-assess notions of communication, transparency and ownership – between all levels of the business and in a way that’s 21st century relevant.   

Breaking down barriers with content   

Regular content sharing within the business is one technique that can encourage organisational unity, including visibility with the (often elusive) c-level executives. By content, this doesn’t just mean corporate updates or company-wide emails, but the sharing of rich, interesting and appealing information that sets an open and inclusive agenda.  

For example, a CEO may spend his/her time out of the office but sharing a photo of a recent branch visit, and an update on any ‘shining stars’ will naturally make them appear more accessible and engaged to the entire organisation. Likewise, a team could share a post regarding beating their latest target milestone alongside a picture of the group.   

Allowing all levels of the workforce to share what they have been doing, what they’ve achieved or how they have gone ‘above and beyond’ really can instill a sense of value, familiarity and personality.  

By providing content that brings work to life, employees’ understanding of the ways that every person in the company is contributing in the business increases considerably. Real-time updates and useful information can inspire and motivate others to replicate these successes or share their own ‘winning moments’ across a company-wide platform.  

Gamification to break down barriers    

Once this content of success stories is being shared, another part of the democratisation process is providing the opportunity for every employee, including senior management, to praise and acknowledge any highlights and successes.   

Across many businesses, whether it’s sharing praise, rewards or badges, employee recognition usually remains the exclusive gift of management. Recognition is siloed into formal and infrequent appraisal systems, where ‘in the moment’ success can often be overlooked. Employees often find they cannot play an active role in highlighting any successes within their peer group or the managerial team, as accolades are filtered through from the managerial level.   

Reward giving and recognition that can be applied on a continuous basis, by any employee to any colleague, brings a shared responsibility that can empower and engage employees across the business. The most successful employee engagement schemes are those where management teams do not diminish all obligation, but adapt their top down approach to one where they actively sponsor and advocate recognition across the business.   

Giving employees a voice   

Organisations that understand the importance of employee engagement through the democratisation of the workplace will ultimately give every employee a voice, and create a real sense of community and shared purpose. Successfully breaking down the traditional hierarchy structure encourages staff to think about their careers in a refreshed way, rather than a climb up the notorious corporate ladder to be seen and heard by those at the top.   

By using an open rewards system, employees can see progression as a series of positive incentives and all levels of the organisation can understand that it’s possible to have the same opportunities in their careers.   

This system of working does not need to disrupt and flatten existing structures, but it can be a powerful approach to creating an improved level of engagement and communication right across a business. The result is a business environment where success and achievement are recognised by all, new ideas and innovation are nurtured and employee satisfaction, productivity and loyalty increase at every level.