What is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement occurs when members of an organisation feel that they can give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.
An engaged employee is one who feels like they belong in the organisation, and who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work, and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.
Important elements in employee engagement (EE) are:
- Trust – between employee and organisation;
- Leadership – employees understand their mission, and believe in it;
- Employee voice – there are opportunities to speak up, without fear of negative consequences;
- Absorbing work – employees enjoy their work, and find satisfaction in it.
Why is employee engagement important? Does it actually make a difference to an organisation, or is it just another HR fad?
There is a substantial body of evidence that links high EE with high productivity, high innovation, low staff turnover, increased profitability:
(Infographic courtesy of engageforsuccess.org)
How is engagement created (or destroyed)?
In the study called ‘Engaging for Success’ carried out in the UK by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke in the early 2009 and updated by the report ‘Nailing the Evidence’ in 2012, the four enablers of EE are:
- Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going;
- Engaging managers who:
* Focus their people and give them scope
* Treat their people as individuals
* Coach and stretch their people
- There is employee voice throughout the organisation, for reinforcing and challenging views; between functions & externally; employees are seen as central to the solution
- There is organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no “say-do” gap.
How do organisations prevent their people feeling engaged?
In order to destroy engagement in a workforce (not that you want to!), or keep it low, an organisation and its leaders should do these things:
- On no account ask employees for their opinions or ideas. They may say something we don’t like, or had not thought of. And we don’t want the troublemakers having a voice.
- Don’t waste money on developing people (especially managers) as they may leave. People management and leadership can’t be that hard, can it? Just tell them to get on with it!
- Tell staff what they want to hear. We’ll sort out the details later. If there’s time.
- Keep strategic plans in the boardroom, as there’s no need for the workers to know that stuff. They have their jobs to get on with, and it will just distract or worry them. Most of them probably won’t understand it anyway. Plus if I’m a leader, I don’t have to waste my time explaining the plan, I have more important things to do.
- Squeeze every last drop of effort out of staff. That’s what we pay them for, to work for the organisation. Obviously, people should give 100% effort all the time.
- Above all, forget that employees are people, with all the same mental and emotional equipment as every other human being. Treat them purely as a factor of production (that’s what it says in the economics textbooks after all), and an expensive one at that.
What can you do now to improve employee engagement in your organisation?
Get more information:
- Read the Engage For Success report here or the Nailing the Evidence report here from the Engage For Success organisation.
- Download the Evidence Infographic from the Engage For Success organisation.
- Request a completely free employee engagement audit for your organisation.
I have developed a tool for quickly assessing the employee engagement situation in your organisation. It acts as an indicator of likely strengths and weaknesses in your engagement practices, and leads to discussion of potential improvements you can make.