What do we mean by Employee Engagement?
‘Engagement is an employee’s decision to apply his or her discretionary effort to the goals of the enterprise, to accept those goals as his own and wholeheartedly commit him or herself to achieving them.’ (Fineman & Carter 2007).
This is just one of numerous definitions, but broadly speaking Employee Engagement is when your employees are dedicated to their jobs and the organisation. It’s when they talk positively of their employer, go the extra mile for their customers or colleagues, put in extra effort over what is required and reward the organisation with their loyalty and commitment. It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation.
What are the drivers of Employee Engagement?
There is no definitive all-purpose list of engagement ‘drivers’. However, CIPD research into employee attitudes found that the main drivers of employee engagement were:
- having opportunities to feed your views upwards
- feeling well-informed about what is happening in the organisation
- believing that your manager is committed to your organisation
Similarly the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) has concluded that the main driver of engagement is a sense of feeling valued and involved. The main components are:
- involvement in decision-making
- freedom to voice ideas, to which managers listen
- feeling enabled to perform well
- having opportunities to develop the job
- feeling the organisation is concerned for employees’ health and well-being
Engagement levels are influenced to some degree by employees’ personal characteristics, but people are also influenced by the jobs they do and the experiences they have at work. The way in which both senior management and line managers behave towards, and communicate with, employees, plus the
way in which work is organised and jobs defined, contribute significantly towards making work meaningful and engaging.
Areas which a company might focus on in order to create a positive impact on engagement are shown below:
The increasing importance of ‘Engagement’ in the workplace and the associated impact on the Motivation Industry.
In the Motivation Industry, typical clients have traditionally been the Marketing and Sales departments. These functions tend to use motivation and performance improvement programmes to improve commercial performance, for example running an incentive to increase sales of a specific product.
Throughout the economic downturn, in the absence of being able to offer valued employees financial rewards such as pay rises and bonuses, companies have increasingly focused on non-financial rewards, such as recognition and opportunities for career progression, to engage and retain their staff.
There are also a number of more general trends affecting the shape of the modern workplace:
- The nature of jobs: more employees are on part time and temporary contracts, more jobs are being outsourced, and functional flexibility is required.
- Organisations have downsized and de-layered: ‘leanness’ means doing more with less, so individual employees have to carry more weight.
- Markets, technology and products are constantly changing: customers are becoming ever more demanding, quality and service standards are constantly going up.
- Technology and finance are less important as sources of competitive advantage: ‘human capital’ (employees) is becoming more critical to business performance in the knowledge-based economy.
- Traditional organisational structures are becoming more fluid: new methods of managing people are required.
The effect of these changes is that employees are increasingly recognised as the key business drivers. The ability of the business to add value rests on its front-line employees. Organisations that wish to succeed have to ‘engage’ their people.
John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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