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New study reveals what really keeps employees engaged

Keeping employees engaged in their work is vital to office productivity, but it can't be accomplished with a simple, one-item strategy.

Keeping employees engaged in their work is vital to office productivity, but it can't be accomplished with a simple, one-item strategy. Rather, a range of techniques needs to be put in place in order to create an environment in which employees can produce their best work.

The things that provide employees with satisfaction in their jobs don't stay the same forever; they're constantly changing as the staff itself develops and new people enter the fold. As such, managers' employee reward programs and engagement initiatives need to be highly adaptable. 

Benefits: a mixed bag
A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides some insight into what exactly drives happiness in the workplace. And when it comes to employee benefits, the results are mixed. SHRM found that only 19 percent of HR departments are incorporating benefits into their retention strategies for top performers.

Whether that's due to a failure on the part of HR teams or because benefits packages are an ineffective motivator is up for debate. However, in a column for Forbes, economist Bill Conerly recommended reevaluating health insurance and other programs.

"This isn't to say that benefits need to be increased, but that the package should meet the needs of those employees most likely to leave the company," Conerly wrote.

Workplace flexibility
Other strategies are much more proven in their effectiveness at engaging and retaining employees. Many management teams are putting stock in flex hours and fluid schedules as staff motivators.

According to SHRM, 57 percent of companies allow their employees to adopt flexible work schedules as a method of keeping high-achieving staff on board. The researchers noted that this perk has been in increasingly high demand in recent years.

"Many HR professionals recognize the importance that workers in the millennial generation place on flexible work schedules," commented Alex Alonso, vice president of research at SHRM. He went on to point out that while just 33 percent used flex hours as a recruitment tool as of last year's survey, that figure has jumped to 55 percent in 2013.

Wellness programs
Initiatives to increase engagement by making employees healthier are on the rise, too. The SHRM study found that 72 percent of firms coordinate wellness programs for their employees. The organization noted, however, that it's difficult to measure the success of these efforts.

"The challenge for employers remains in quantifying the impact of wellness programs," Alonso said.

Managers looking to boost productivity might consider choosing between flexible hours or health initiatives as a complement to their employee incentive programs.

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