What is Employee Engagement?
Employee Engagement is not a novel concept but it has a spectrum of definition. Some say that it is the equivalent to employee satisfaction, and some say that it is how happy employees are.
Those are the common myths about employee engagement.
In reality, employee engagement by definition surpasses their happiness and their satisfaction. Because being satisfied is simply not enough.
A satisfied employee might show up for her 9-to-5 without complaint. But that same satisfied employee might not go the extra effort on her own, and she’ll probably take the headhunter’s call luring her away with a 10% bump in pay.
The same goes for making them happy, it is different from keeping them engaged.
Someone might be happy at work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are working productively on behalf of the organisation.
So really, happy team =/= happy balance sheet.
What really is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.
This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. Not just for a paycheck, or simply for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organisation’s goals.
It is what successful organisations do.
- Employee engagement is about having a clear understanding of how an organisation is fulfilling its purpose and objectives, how it is changing to fulfill those better.
- It is about being included fully as a member of the team focussed on clear goals, trusted and empowered, receiving constructive feedback, supported in developing new skills, thanked, and recognised for achievement.
- At the same time, employee engagement is built on trust, integrity, two-way commitment, and communication between an organisation and its members. It is an approach that increases the chances of business success while contributing to organisational and individual performance, productivity, and wellbeing.
The Good, The Bad and Why it Matters
Let’s start with some good news.
Yes! Employee engagement can be measured. It varies from poor to great.
Yes! It can be nurtured and dramatically increased! So as lost and thrown away…
Therefore, engaged employees lead to better business outcomes and generate higher business value. And that’s why you should care, if you, as a leader, truly cares about the organisation.
Further, research by the Towers Perrin shows that companies with engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins. Plus, Kenexa found that engaged companies have 5x higher shareholder returns over five years.
That’s because, when employees care, they are engaged. And when employees are engaged, they use discretionary effort. That is, they will go above and beyond to finish a piece of work.
The bad thing about employee engagement?
It is easier to disengage your employees than to engage them, and there is no easy way around it.
And we think, more often than not, leaders leave employees to be disengaged knowingly.
Secondly, employee engagement cannot be achieved by a mechanistic approach.
You may be thinking to yourself that you simply don’t have the time and/or can’t be bothered.
If the numbers can’t convince you to do something about it, scroll up and read again.
What should leaders do to nurture employee engagement?
‘With great power comes great responsibility.’
In movies, we associate that with superheroes. In the workplace, we should be associating the quote with business leaders.
That’s because business leaders are those with the power to connect the entire organisation together, by providing strategic direction for the company, as well as to provide care and leadership.
Again, it doesn’t hurt to reiterate, that there is no overnight quick fix to employee engagement.
It takes time, investment, energy, and open-mindedness.
To get the ball rolling though, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you and other managers in your organisation define employee engagement?
- How do you know that certain employees in your company are engaged? Do they relish their jobs? Enjoy specific responsibilities or tasks? Willingly “go the extra mile”?
- In teams, departments, or business units in your company that have a large number of engaged employees, what business results are you seeing? Higher productivity? Lower costs? Greater revenues? More efficiency? Lower turnover? Higher product or service quality?
- Conversely, how do disengaged employees behave? And what are the consequent costs for their teams, units, and your entire company?
With your answers, you should have an idea of where you and your organisation stands in terms of having an efficient employee engagement strategy.
Feeling a bit stuck still? Fret not.
Xrosswork has put together a guide of practical engagement strategies from HR experts here.
Of course, there are other practices that can help improve the morale of your workforce. But these take a longer time to co-develop with the HR department as we transition to the notion of a new Human Resources Management → Strategic Human Resources Management (SHRM).
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