Organisations that engage with their employees will be more successful and profitable than employers who don’t.
Low employee engagement may not be as tangible as other KPIs, but it can harm your business. This can be seen through factors such as high absenteeism and staff turnover, as well as poor staff satisfaction levels expressed in anonymous qualitative surveys.
Research has also shown that employee engagement is directly related to the bottom line of the business. It can affect factors such as job performance and client satisfaction, which will have an impact on financial returns. For these reasons, many employers are now focussing their attention on how they go about fostering employee engagement.
But what does employee engagement look like and how do you create it?
The anatomy of an engaged employee
Engaged employees are:
- Energetic, confident in their own abilities and proactive. They exercise influence over events that are important to them.
- Positive, with an optimistic outlook which encourages recognition and appreciation from others.
- Not workaholics – they have interests outside of work as well.
- Absorbed by the task in hand, so that tiredness is experienced as a pleasant state following task completion, rather than a negative.
- Seen as confident in being able to take on and put in the required effort to be successful at the job in hand.
- Optimistic about succeeding now and in the future.
- Respectful to their organisation as a result of having a role within it, and deriving psychological meaning from it.
- Resilient and able to redirect actions in order to overcome problems as required.
- Assertive, tending to be outgoing and works with vigour and purpose.
- Industrious, tending to be hard working and likely to apply effort and attention the task in hand.
Creating the right work environment
Employee engagement is not a tick box exercise. It demands a holistic approach to create working conditions that foster employee engagement.
Employers need to ensure that the demands of an employee’s role are balanced with the resources they have access to, in order to fulfil that role. Some of the resources might be physical, such as a laptop for mobile working, but often social and emotional resources are necessary too.
It is vital that employers recognise that support from management and colleagues is an important resource. It doesn’t cost much, but without it your employees are unlikely to be fully engaged. They may suffer from work overload or negative emotional demands, which often result in stress and even resignation.
The right training, development and performance management for your employees is also vital. Employees need to feel confident and competent in their ability to do their jobs. If they feel they don’t have the skills necessary to do their role, or have been set apparently unachievable objectives, then they will disengage.
Effective performance management is not done well in many organisations, so employers should also make sure that managers have the necessary skills to carry out performance reviews – setting objectives, appraising progress, rewarding people for doing well and supporting employees.
It’s easy to see the evidence of employee engagement on the bottom line in good times, but it becomes critical in the tough times. If your organisation faces unpleasant decisions in the future, such as the need to introduce a pay freeze, or reduce staff headcount, then engaged staff will be better able to approach change positively.
Improving employee engagement isn’t just about identifying and addressing areas of poor engagement. Areas where there is high employee engagement also need to be identified and capitalised upon. Remember, there is a significant correlation between high employee engagement and motivation.
It is clear that, if your organisation wants to be more successful, you need to make employee engagement one of your top priorities in 2014 and beyond. It should be seen as fundamental to your business strategy by senior management.