Can workplace amenities like bean bag chairs, Ping Pong tables, and snack bars solve employee engagement challenges? Popularized by Silicon Valley tech firms, these amenities have gone mainstream and are often credited with boosting employer branding and driving talent recruitment. But while great amenities may get employees in the door, it takes more than a snack bar to keep them engaged.

Employees want to feel valued. They need to know that their work matters, that they are important contributors, and that their employer supports their professional development. By genuinely listening to your employees’ concerns, you can better understand and support their needs, strengthening employee engagement in the process. Here’s how to address four common concerns:

“What’s my purpose at this company? Does my work matter?”

No one wants to feel like a paper pusher, especially mission-driven employees. To engage these employees, help them connect the dots. How does their daily work makes a direct impact on your company’s objectives? Depending on employee seniority, you may not be able to share long-term strategic plans, but you should help these employees understand how they fit into the bigger picture, including opportunities for professional mobility within your organization. The more insight they have into how other teams work, the easier it will be for them to see how their role fits into the bigger picture.

“How can I better contribute to my team and the company?”

Performance-oriented employees crave consistent feedback. They want to know if they’re meeting your expectations and how they can continue to improve. Don’t wait until annual review time rolls around. Depending on your management style, you might offer a weekly office hours session and meet one-on-one with each team member. Or, you might offer feedback as team members hit specific project milestones. Whichever option you choose, keep feedback specific and actionable.

“How can I strengthen my skills and gain leadership experience?”

Growth-oriented employees want to know what’s next and how they get there. Engaging these employees means supporting their career development, whether that’s through continuing education, professional conferences or leadership training. Every month, I dedicate an hour to discussing articles, books, TED Talks, or anything that focuses on an individual’s ability to thrive in their careers. Consider how you can implement this in your organization, whether it’s a brown bag lunch-and-learn, employee mentorship program, or a professional development course.

“What’s my future at this company? Should I stay or go elsewhere?”

Not every employee is a forever employee– and that’s okay. If you sense an employee is unhappy, reach out to understand why. Perhaps they’re seeking more challenging work or the opportunity to develop a new skill and you can support them in this growth. In some cases, the employee may be better off seeking opportunities elsewhere, especially if they’ve hit a ceiling for promotion potential at your organization. While it’s difficult to lose a rising star, it’s better to support an employee’s departure than try to force someone who is unhappy to stick around. Strive to part on good terms and leave the door open– they just may be a “boomerang employee” and return with new experience and fresh ideas in a few years.

In the rush to offer the latest and great workplace perks, don’t lose sight of truly matters for employee engagement: candid communication that addresses purpose, performance and growth concerns. How do you speak to these engagement concerns at your company? I invite you to share your insights in the comments section below.


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