Employee engagement is becoming increasingly important for organisations that want to remain competitive in today’s business world. When brands talk about employee engagement they often do so with the bottom line and productivity in mind as engaged employees lead to better business outcomes, but it can also be used to address several other challenges. Companies with high engagement also report lower employee turnover rates. The strategic approach to employee engagement has its roots in trust, two way communication, fair and equitable processes and development of employees. The aim is to foster an environment where employees are willing to go the extra mile to find solutions for problems as they arise.
What exactly is employee engagement and how is it of benefit to companies?
Employee engagement is a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success and are able to enhance their own sense of wellbeing. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development highlights three facets of employee engagement: intellectual engagement (thinking about the job and how to do it better), affective engagement (feeling positive about doing a good job) and social engagement (taking opportunities to discuss work related improvements with others at work). Another element of engagement that is considered essential is being aware of business context and the alignment of sight between your own job role and the purpose and objectives of the organisation.
The benefit of an active and engaged workforce can be seen through improved business performance and a higher retention rate. The relationship between how people are managed, employee attitudes and business performance has been repeatedly demonstrated. Engaged employees are also advocates of their organisation’s brand and reputation. On the flip side, employers with a disengaged workforce may suffer from productivity loss and difficulty holding onto their best people.
Some reasons why engagement may be low and turnover high in companies are:
- Workload too high and the performance management process may be flawed.
- Lack of investment in development and talent mobility, making it difficult for high achievers to advance.
- Non- inclusive culture which makes it difficult to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
- Lack of trust between management and staff.
Measuring Employee engagement
Employee engagement is generally organisation specific and the majority of organisations measure employee attitudes through satisfaction surveys. Other tools for measuring employee engagement include focus groups, social media forums and tracking and analysing turnover. If you can’t come up with a way to measure engagement then you can’t manage it and if you can’t manage it you can’t improve it.
How to implement employee engagement
Engagement is not a one size fits all experience, it is an individual experience and the exact definition tends to vary among employees. The foundations of employee engagement however, are concern for employee well being and development opportunities. The drive for employee engagement starts with good people management and training and development practices. Employee engagement is not solely the remit of the HR department and successful employee engagement strategies need the full and active support of senior leaders and line managers to ensure that they are implemented and embedded throughout the organisation. Some ideas for fostering engagement in your organisation include:
Line managers and leaders taking the helm: It is difficult for an employee to be truly engaged if they don’t like their boss. This is why it is important for direct supervisors to treat team engagement as a high priority. Supervisors who observe their teams in action, ask for feedback, follow up on the causes of employee concerns and implement meaningful improvements have happier and more engaged employees. While some managers adhere to the one size fits all management approach, great managers customise their approach to best fit each individual’s unique motivational mix.
Communication: It is hard to improve employee engagement without having an accurate picture of where it stands in the first place. Open, honest, two way communication is essential to foster and improve engagement and trust. Keep employees in the loop about what is happening and how it affects them. This means sharing goals, progress reports and other news while at the same time listening to their concerns and taking appropriate action. Creating an atmosphere of openness and communication gives companies the chance to help their employees better understand the reason and value behind the tasks they perform and the projects they complete.
Development: Companies should provide challenging and meaningful work with opportunities for career advancement. Most people want to be challenged and do new things in their job. Companies with high levels of employee engagement test and push their staff, but they also provide the tools necessary to accomplish and be successful.
Goal Alignment: Every company has objectives and goals but it is easy for employees to become dispirited and disengaged if they don’t understand how their contribution fits into the overall company goals. Goal alignment will keep your workforce motivated by helping them to see where they fit into the puzzle and highlighting the value of their work. People want to know that their input matters and that they are contributing to the organisation’s success in a meaningful way.
Competitive advantage can be gained by creating an engaged workforce and leaders need to make employee engagement one of their priorities. It is important to ascertain the level of engagement, reasons for the lack of full engagement and then implement strategies to facilitate full engagement. Employee engagement efforts should be strategic and ongoing.