If someone asks what are the main problems you have with your workforce, what would you say? Sickness absence? Lack of motivation? High turnover of staff? Or perhaps low productivity? All of these problems can cost a business money, management time and possibly increased legal fees in resolving workplace disputes. However according to HR Magazine’s Employees Engagement Survey 2010, there is a solution: invest in employee engagement – this doesn’t just mean financially.

99% of people interviewed believed that employee engagement has an impact on business success, but only 61% had a strategy to increase the engagement levels of staff. So, what strategies can be implemented to increase employee engagement? Taking soundings from the horse’s mouth via an employee survey is an obvious route whether annually or more often. This will allow you to measure what is important to your staff, and whether they feel their needs are being met.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the majority of employees are likely to put financial rewards at the top of the list for getting motivated. However, in the current economic climate it has become more difficult for employers to be so generous on this front. What can be done instead? Joking aside, employees do rate stability, continuity and clear direction amongst the most important factors within the workplace. So how can employment law help?

Employment law is often seen by employers as a last ditch resort once an issue with an employee has reached the point of no return. Capability procedures are viewed as a way of justifying dismissal for absenteeism, and performance management procedures are often seen as a one way ticket.

However, if implemented properly, employers’ policies and procedures can in fact be a useful tool in promoting an engaged and productive workforce. For example, return to work interviews can be used to support staff back into the workplace following a period of sick leave, or for identifying adjustments required for disabled staff. A clear and open appraisal system, if applied consistently, can be used to reinforce positive performances. Reviews and appraisals can be used as a method of encouraging and rewarding valuable members of staff.

Other ways of encouraging employee engagement could be to offer and implement flexible working patterns, and provide ongoing and relevant training to all staff. This need not be costly if using in house resourcing.

Employers may also wish to consider less “pricey” methods of incentivising their staff, such as offering additional paid holiday, company or departmental trips or events, or special mentions for employees who have made outstanding contributions to the business.

It is important that employers maintain open lines of communications with their employees and maintain flexibility in order to promote a happier, more productive workforce. If employment law principles are implemented consistently and fairly across the whole organisation, procedures which have traditionally been seen negatively as ways of justifying dismissal can be used to encourage and reward loyal employees. Management need to work together with HR to invest time in supporting their staff. True employee engagement cannot be achieved without management input.

The benefits of retaining and promoting a loyal workforce are clear and can include increased productivity, reduced recruitment costs, fewer workplace disputes, reduced absenteeism and increased talent and experience within the workforce ultimately these are the keys to a company making it or breaking it.