The difference that makes the difference
Making engagement happen is the ultimate objective for organisations today. Real employee engagement means that employees are maximising their value to the organisation. But the definition of what it takes to make engagement happen is a moving target; it is determined by the employee and is not based solely on competitive reward.
Engagement, going to the heart of the workplace relationship between employee and employer, can be a key to unlocking productivity and to transforming the working lives of many people for whom Monday morning is an especially low point of the week.
Employee engagement strategies enable people to be the best they can at work, recognising that this can only happen if they feel respected, involved, heard, well led and valued by those they work for and with.
Engaged organisations have strong and authentic values, with clear evidence of trust and fairness based on mutual respect, where two way promises and commitments – between employers and staff – are understood, and are fulfilled. Levels of engagement matter because employee engagement can correlate with performance. Even more significantly, there is evidence that improving engagement correlates with improving performance.
Although improved performance and productivity is at the heart of engagement, it cannot be achieved by an automatic approach which tries to extract discretionary effort. Employees see through such attempts very quickly; they lead instead to cynicism and disillusionment.
By contrast, engaged employees freely and willingly give discretionary effort, not as an ‘add on’, but as an integral part of their daily activity at work. They think nothing of it.
An engaged employee experiences a blend of job satisfaction, organisational commitment, job involvement and feelings of empowerment. It is a concept that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Employee engagement is not a science, but the development of survey tools allow levels of ‘engagement’ within an organisation to be measured. Exactly what aspect of engagement these questionnaires analyse varies. But the data gleaned from engagement surveys should be good enough to allow organisations to address their identified issues and analyse the factors behind their success.
A sophisticated or expensive survey is not always appropriate or necessary to measure engagement levels; many organisations supplement questionnaires with staff focus groups. For small organisations, in particular, the cost could certainly be prohibitive and the process may seem overly bureaucratic. Similarly, engagement does not necessarily involve outlay on consultants or expensive surveys. However it will involve behavioural and cultural change which takes time, aligned commitment and effort.
Of course simply doing a survey and publishing the results is not the same as an engagement strategy. Measuring engagement is simply a tool to allow you to find out how engaged your people are. Don’t make the mistake by assuming that doing a survey is doing engagement – it’s an important part of the process, but only part of it.
There are many other outcomes of an engaged workforce; less absenteeism; better customer engagement; improved retention; better organisational advocacy (as a workplace and of their services/products); increased creativity and innovation to name a few. Employee engagement also affects the mindset of people. Engaged employees believe that they can make a difference in the organisations they work for. Confidence in the knowledge, skills, and abilities that people possess – in both themselves and others – is a powerful predictor of behaviour and subsequent performance.
AON Hewitt do a great job at capturing the relationship between Engagement and business outcomes in this model. The interesting thing about this model is to notice how many of the Engagement Drivers managers and leaders of organisations have a direct or indirect influence on. The old adage that employees leave managers rather than organisations still rings true.
The eight C’s of employee engagement
How can leaders engage employees’ heads, hearts, and hands? There are several paths to action, these are summarised below as the Eight C’s of employee engagement.
1. Connect: Leaders must show that they value employees.
2. Career: Leaders should provide challenging and meaningful work with opportunities for career advancement. Most people want to do new things in their job.
3. Clarity: Leaders must communicate a clear vision.
4. Convey: Leaders clarify their expectations about employees and provide feedback often.
5. Congratulate: Exceptional leaders give recognition, and they do so a lot; they coach and convey.
6. Contribute: People want to know that their input matters and that they are contributing to the organisation’s success in a meaningful way.
7. Collaborate: Great leaders are team builders; they create an environment that fosters trust and collaboration.
8. Credibility: People want to be proud of their jobs, their performance, and their organisation.
Despite there being some debate about the precise meaning of employee engagement there are three things we know about it: it is measurable; it can be correlated with performance; and it varies from poor to great. Most importantly employers can do a great deal to impact on people’s level of engagement. That is what makes it so important, as a tool for business success.
Employee engagement is the difference that makes the difference.
Want to know more about improving or enhancing the engagement of your employee’s or want to establish a more tangible link from your employees to your business outcomes? Click here