Are you doing enough to keep your team engaged? Most managers are not—despite the benefits of doing so and the staggering cost of employee turnover.

Just take a quick look at these stats Gallup released in its State of American workplace report:

Pretty bleak, right? These numbers would suggest most managers are careless tyrants who make zero attempts to empower their teams. But more often than not, managers have all the right intentions–they just aren’t taking the right approach.

Gallup explains it this way:

“Organizations falter in creating a culture of engagement when they solely approach engagement as an exercise in making their employees feel happy… Organizations have more success with engagement when they treat employees as stakeholders of their future and the company’s future. They put the focus on concrete performance management activities, such as clarifying work expectations, getting people what they need to do their work, providing development and promoting positive coworker relationships.”

In other words, trendy perks—beer on tap, free dry cleaning, or office ping pong tables—don’t cut it.

Hackneyed team building exercises or fancy retreats are rarely the answer either. Some companies make elaborate, even bordering on comical, plans that don’t ever result in a measurable effect.

For instance, the former exec at global conglomerate Mars, Inc. recounted in an article for Harvard Business Review,

Once, we spent thousands of dollars to hire an orchestra to spend an hour with a group of senior leaders at an offsite retreat and help them work together in harmony. It was a nice metaphor and an interesting experience. It did nothing, though, to change how that group of leaders worked together.”

Investing in your employees the right way

team members learning in a classroom

Create a strong culture of learning

A data analysis of more than 5 million employees in 140 organization found that career development and meaningful work were the primary drivers in creating a greater employee value proposition. This translates into measurable results: Businesses with a strong learning culture enjoy more employee engagement and retention rates around 30-50% higher  than those that don’t.

Key takeaway: Set aside the time and budget for employees to attend relevant workshops and conferences. Encourage your team to proactively seek out opportunities to add skills or improve.

Build stronger teams

Engaged employees feel connected to their team. At its core, this connectivity stems from communication. MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab recently studied this connection, finding,

With remarkable consistency, the data confirmed that communication indeed plays a critical role in building successful teams. In fact, we’ve found patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success.”

But setting out to improve communication is an ambiguous goal. What specific steps can you take to achieve it?

At Encore, we recommend utilizing DISC training. DISC is an assessment tool that gives you insight into your team’s (as well as your own) working styles, communication patterns, natural tendencies, and predictable behaviors.

When you call upon a professional to administer DISC, and coach you on the results, your team is able to walk away with specific steps and practical tips to communicate more effectively with each team member. 

We’ve seen it work wonders in organization after organization—in teams with existing conflict issues and teams who simply wanted to build a stronger dynamic. Read more about our approach to DISC here.

But no matter what specific steps you take to invest in your employees, the data is clear: Engaging your team is a business strategy. Gallup found that highly engaged business units realized a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. All in all, these behaviors resulted in 21% greater profitability.

How’s that for an incentive?