For her first job after college, Naz Beheshti worked as an executive assistant for the late Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs, who had a reputation for having high standards. Over time, the stress of the job took a toll on her physical health, so she left.
“He demanded excellence of me and anyone who worked for him or else you were fired, so every day I was happy to have survived the day,” she said. “After working at Apple I’d come home really exhausted and didn’t have any energy for anything else. I started losing my hair a bit.”
That experience, along with other corporate jobs, led her to employment at Prananaz, a company that coaches corporate executives and entrepreneurs and implements employee engagement programs.
Employers looking to increase engagements should tailor employee engagement efforts to their staff’s demographics, interests and overall goals, Beheshti said. To get workers more engaged, employers have to listen closely to what their employees want and actually implement them.
Research shows that workers who aren’t fulfilled in their current roles are driven to look for better jobs, and the cost to replace them can add up.
A recent Gallup poll found that 32 percent of employees are engaged at work. It costs about $4,129 to hire a new employee and it takes 42 days on average to fill a position, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report. Making employees feel valued at work could keep them from looking for new jobs.
What exactly does employee engagement look like? The criteria that the American Psychological Association has used to examine employee engagement policies include employee involvement, growth and development, recognition, health and safety, work-life balance and communication, said Alan Graham, president of ACP Consultants and representative of the APA’s Psychology in the Workplace Network.
Employers can get creative with their efforts, Graham said. He has been examining workplace engagement practices 2001 and has seen employers celebrate employee “re-birthdays,” meaning the anniversaries of when they joined the company or host an annual or biannual “hackathon,” a gathering during which employees break off into small groups and come up with solutions to company problems.
For one company that asked employees to look for ways to save money, one employee did research on gas and found that fuel was cheaper on Tuesdays. That discovery that led to $35,000 in annual savings, Graham said.
For mid-sized and larger companies, it’s important for executives to know that changing an already established corporate culture takes time, he said. Though the culture may not change overnight—and some executives see these efforts as insignificant—they will be worth it in the long run, he said.
Cookie-cutter workplace wellness programs don’t work well, Beheshti said. When deciding which programs to implement, she said clients bring her in to assess the staff’s interests and demographics. If employees aren’t interested in yoga or meditation sessions, for example, it doesn’t make sense to introduce courses like that even though it may be trendy at other companies.
Beheshti recommends employers ask their workers about their personal goals — in and outside of work. Though most employee engagement efforts focus on workplace engagement, helping workers reach goals outside of the office ensures that they will bring their best selves to work, she said.
“When an employee is engaged, they’re showing up every day with drive, with passion, with purpose, with energy,” she said. “They’re going to be part of the company rather than being overwhelmed, stressed or missing deadlines.”