The advent of new digital technologies and the increasing importance given to transparency has shifted HRM’s priorities, compelling it to focus on the employee journey and experience. To attract and retain talent, employees must feel engaged in the organisation. “Employee Engagement” – it’s the new buzz word, but what does this exactly mean?
What is employee engagement and how to measure it
Macey et al. (2009) defines engagement as “the employee’s sense of purpose and focused energy that is evident to others through the display of personal initiative, adaptability, effort, and persistence directed toward the organisation’s goals”.
Many leaders are yet to grasp a thorough understanding of engagement. For instance, a number of organisations measure engagement on a low to high scale based on behavioral factors including performance or job satisfaction. But it’s much more complex than that. We mustn’t view personal satisfaction as a mere proxy for engagement. While some adopt analytical tools to measure employee engagement, they fail to take individual’s perceptions and contexts into account. On the other hand, some managers place high emphasis on the feelings and perceptions of employees but neglect key performance indicators.
Ultimately, we need to strike a balance. A balance between employees’ considerations and performance engagement reviews, to provide a more holistic view of what’s going right, and what needs improving. This further reveals a dramatic shift from a focus on customers to focusing on our greatest asset first – our people, so that their engagement will in turn, encourage them to treat and respect other stakeholders even better.
Return on investment: Empowering employees
One way to facilitate employee engagement is to give your employees greater importance. This is encapsulated in the concept of ‘open book management’ – helping your employees to reach a state of consciousness and giving them the opportunity to make an impactful contribution.
John Case with Inc. Magazine & Jack State at SRC Holdings explain how owners and executives are the key players that understand the economics behind what is happening in a business. They make the decision and if the return is positive, they share the reward. As a result, employees have a limited understanding and exposure of the mechanics behind key business decisions – they are told what to do, with little reasoning as to why they are doing it.
Thus, to enhance employee engagement and allow employees to be active in key decisions, business literacy should be a priority for managers. Consistently sharing key numbers that are directly related to financial outcomes can enhance employee performance and their engagement on their task because it allows them to have a clear and reachable goal. Employees can learn how to predict change, anticipate new trends and manage short and long term objectives better, especially when positive results are rewarded.
This results in a win-win situation, companies reach their targets whilst employees feel more connected with their work, the organisation and its culture.
Team environment and employee development
The environment in which employees work in is an essential factor. In recent years, we’ve seen companies place a greater focus on the design of the workplace, looking for the most efficient working ways for their employees. However, what companies tend to overlook is the team environment. There is little control about how employees interact with each other, but effective leadership can influence and introduce a culture of integrity, hard work and passion in the workplace. In return, this develops a space for greater cooperation; employees sharing innovative ideas and developing greater engagement.
It is also crucial to provide relevant and quality training to nurture the development of your employees which, as a result, will allow them to develop their understanding and contribute more effectively. There is nothing more frustrating than to be stuck in a static position where you stop learning and cannot progress. This can be overcome via adequate training. Employees need to understand the link between their current position and the need for training, to help them evolve in the business and more efficiently strive towards company goals. As a result, employees won’t feel like a number lost in an ocean of people, but rather, a valuable, strategic piece of the mechanism.
This factor is becoming more and more important with the advent of millennials within a digitised and dynamic workforce. There is a growing desire to have purpose in an organisation. Hence, if this desire is satisfied, engagement is more likely to be heightened and performance will follow.
Gallup’s 2013, “State of the American Workplace” survey analysed more than 350 000 respondents and revealed that 52% of employees were disengaged and 18% were actively disengaged. More prominently however, manager’s supervision accounted for 70% variance in the difference of engagement.
Thus, to improve employee engagement, supervisors need to:
Be available and open to communicate
Be available and allow your employees to interact when they need to. Most of the time, employees hesitate to ask questions because they are scared to be judged or looked down on. However, a good leader will ease the interaction and allow employees to communicate their thoughts and share both ideas and doubts.
Establish clear and realistic goals
Creating goals that are out of reach might lead your employees to feel overwhelmed with their work, and demotivated as the task ahead seems impossible. On the other hand, setting very basic goals can be ineffective, as it does not motivate individuals to perform to their best of their ability. Hence, challenging yet realistic goals are the most successful as they will encourage employees to think outside of the box, without burdening them with a task they cannot accomplish.
Focus on the strength of employees and train them to improve on their weaknesses
Creating a healthy relationship between supervisors and employees is essential to making them feel valued and important. A supervisor that spends time and energy on training, teaching and actively involves their employees in discussions is more likely to be rewarded with higher engagement and productivity from employees.
Key takeaways to boost your employees engagement
- Understand what employee engagement is and why it is important to engage your employees
- Empower your employees to feel valued and create a feeling of belonging to the team and the organisation, rather than being a number lost in the crowd
- Focus on your team’s working environment and the relationship supervisors and leaders have with their team, and on creating a positive and inspiring setting within the workplace
Read also: 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement