Offices are supposed to be living, breathing environments that spawn creativity, but more often than not this doesn’t happen. Employees can easily become disengaged, unmotivated and ultimately unlikely to help their companies accomplish their goals and contend with competitors.

But entrepreneurs – particularly those who work for their own startups – can increase the likelihood their companies succeed by improving their employee engagement levels.

…and it’s not difficult to do! They just have to get creative, which shouldn’t be a problem considering startups are often known for their outside-the-box thinking.

“Only 32 percent of employees in America are engaged.”

Why are engagement rates so important anyway?

When employees are more engaged, they’re more likely to be motivated to go above and beyond in their roles, noted Gallup. But currently only 32 percent of employees in America are engaged, and that number drops to a stunning 13 percent when we view rates worldwide.

Employers need to understand that high engagement rates are critical to their success. Here are three reasons why:

1. Employees want to be recognized

Recognizing employees is a great way to improve their motivation and thus jolt engagement rates. In a study commissioned by David Novak, 40 percent of employed Americans said they’d do more at work if their employers recognized them. However, 82 percent noted that they don’t feel like their supervisors recognize them enough. This should absolutely frighten employers, plenty of whom simply need to do more to recognize their employees for their stellar work.

2. Bottom lines are damaged

It might seem like a lot of work, but the effort entrepreneurs put toward improving their employees’ engagement rates can actually improve their companies’ bottom lines.

The reason?

It doesn’t take rocket science to prove that disengaged employees are more likely to leave their companies and look for new jobs, resulting in hight turnover costs.

ERE Media reported that it costs companies about 30-50 percent of an entry-level employee’s annual salary to replace him or her. For midlevel employees that number rises to 150 percent, and for high-level workers that number jumps to 400 percent.

In dollars, these figures equate to $16,000 if the entry-level employee was making $40,000 annually, $120,000 for midlevel workers earning $80,000 annually and nearly $500,000 for those making $120,000.

Companies need to make it a priority to improve engagement rates, even if only to lower their human resources costs.

XIncreasing your staff’s engagement levels should be a top priority at every company.

3. Progress stops

When employees aren’t motivated, they’re less likely to do their jobs well and, as we’ve noted, may be more likely to look for a different position outside of the company. The cost of disengaged employees may actually be as high, if not higher, than losing the employee.

Companies that want to succeed in competitive marketplaces need to consider the financial implications of ignoring employee happiness.

Why do companies fail at increasing engagement rates?

Before we suggest ways entrepreneurs can improve their employees’ engagement rates, let’s first address why engagement is often so poor in the first place.

It all starts with upper management.

Gallup made an excellent point when they said companies need to go beyond just measuring engagement rates and should focus on actually improving them. The polling firm also listed a number of other mistakes companies make. These include:

  • Not measuring and improving engagement rates continuously.
  • Focusing more on obtaining data than actually using it to help employees and managers grow.
  • Not measuring or looking at engagement statistics correctly.
  • Failing to look at the correct statistics or willingly uncover problem areas.
  • Not viewing employees as stakeholders.

Companies must always have the pulse of their workplaces and constantly measure everything from motivation levels to happiness.

How can companies improve engagement rates?

To improve engagement rates, companies need to start by creating a strategy that defines problem areas and suggests ways to fix them.

Here are five unique ways companies can increase engagement rates:

“Brand champions are often a company’s most loyal workers.”

1. Develop brand champions

Brand champions are excellent assets for companies because these employees are often a company’s most loyal workers. They love their jobs and they want those around them to also find the same amount of enthusiasm in their work. Companies should focus their efforts on developing as many brand champions as possible.

2. Recognize employees

One of the best ways to create brand champions is by recognizing employees through rewards and benefits. Employees who are properly recognized are more likely to be engaged in their work, stay at the company and feel more confident in their employers’ visions and strategies.

3. Focus on improving overall culture

A TINYpulse survey found that 64 percent of employees don’t feel like their companies had a strong workplace culture. Furthermore, they believe there are few opportunities for growth and development.

Companies must look at the big picture when drafting their engagement plan and include ways to improve the overall office environment.

4. Encourage collaboration and communication

Healthy workplaces are ones where employees regularly work with each other and, just as importantly, enjoy collaborating on such a basis.

Encourage interaction by sponsoring peer-to-peer presentations and more in-office networking events.

5. Give employees the right types of awards

The types of awards employers give their employees matter. Look at how you’re currently rewarding your employees for their hard work and make adjustments to your offerings as needed.