THE BLOG
12/09/2014 02:16 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2015

6 Simple But Highly Effective Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

Blend Images - JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images

By Zeynep Ilgaz, Co-founder Confirm BioSciences and TestCountry

An inspired, hard-working team can make miracles happen. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest barriers to success facing leaders today.

A recent Gallup study revealed that just 30 percent of American workers are engaged at work, while 18 percent are actively disengaged. This is dangerous for any business because that discontent can quickly spread to other employees and destroy your company's productivity.

Engaging and motivating your employees should be among your top priorities as a leader because it helps ensure your employees are invested in their work -- not just going through the motions and checking off tasks.

So how do you make sure your employees are motivated and satisfied with their jobs? Hint: It's not by making them work more hours or throwing money at them. While financial rewards like raises and bonuses can help motivate employees in the short term, they aren't the best way to resolve the underlying issues of job dissatisfaction and disengagement.

Here are some essential steps you can take to increase employee motivation and pull workers who may have already "checked out" back on track:

  1. Create a positive work environment. Workplace culture and conditions are among the biggest factors in improving employee satisfaction. Employees need to feel comfortable and free to express themselves. After all, they spend more time at work than they do at home.



    You can create a comfortable workplace that encourages productivity with soft lighting and comfortable workstations, but you can also enhance employees' environment by developing a culture that emphasizes family, teamwork, trust, and passion. Weekly potlucks, happy hours, or lunches are great ways to create this family atmosphere.

  2. Make work matter.
    Help your team identify meaning in the work they do -- whether this means helping the planet or delighting customers. If your company is focused solely on increasing sales, your employees will be in constant danger of burnout. They'll work harder and be happier if their work has meaning.
  3. Give employees opportunities to grow.
    It's difficult for employees to maintain motivation when they feel like their positions are stagnant. There should be a clear path by which employees can climb the ranks to greater responsibility and higher compensation. One way to show employees that you want them to grow professionally is to have one-on-one conversations about personal and professional goals, focusing on how the company can help.
  4. Eliminate stress.
    Impossible deadlines or excessive workloads will erode job satisfaction for even the most dedicated team members. According to research by Towers Watson, employees who experience too much stress at work are less engaged and less productive.

    Strive to create a stress-free environment by setting realistic deadlines and keeping projects manageable. Set up a stress-relieving space like a coffee shop or game room, and maintain a dialogue with workers to see how they're handling the work assigned to them.

  5. Invest in education.
    Offering employees opportunities to receive education that encourages leadership is an easy way to give them an extra boost and make them excited about their current roles.
  6. Show appreciation. One of the most important factors in motivating workers is showing genuine appreciation. Employees work harder and care more about their jobs when their efforts are noticed and rewarded. Appreciation doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive. A simple "thank you" is enough. The key is to express praise regularly, not just at annual reviews or holiday parties.

If you see signs that your team members may be underperforming or losing motivation, you need to step in before their energy dwindles any further. If you notice consistent lateness, a visible change in demeanor, or a drop in productivity, it may be due to decreased motivation or burnout.

Sometimes a simple change to the person's job description will make an impact. You can also consider giving that employee more responsibility or a long-overdue promotion. Showing that you're interested in your employees' well-being will go a long way toward building engagement.

As a leader, you must focus on building relationships, recognize signs of burnout in your employees, work to help them grow and show appreciation. If you take care of your employees and work to make them happy, they'll take care of your customers, and your company will thrive.

Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband co-founded Confirm Biosciences and TestCountry, where Ilgaz serves as president. Confirm Biosciences is committed to being on the cutting edge of offering new, service-oriented drug-testing technologies and was recognized as one of San Diego's Best Places to Work in both 2013 and 2014.