You’ve hired a great team with the right skills and experience; your products and services proposition is focused and effective; but how do you maintain and guide the level of energy and commitment required from your employees to achieve your business goals?
To do this, you need your workforce to be prepared to deliver the behaviours and performance that can only come from a truly engaged workforce.
But what is an engaged workforce?
Here is a really great quote from Kevin Kruse, Forbes Leadership Columnist, that perfectly sums up what is meant by “employee engagement”.
“…employee engagement is the emotional commitment that we have to our organization and the organization’s goals. When we’re engaged, when we’re emotionally committed, it means we’re going to give discretionary effort. We’re going to go the extra mile. That’s the secret sauce. That’s why engagement is so important and so powerful. When we are engaged, we give discretionary effort.”
You can read Kevin’s full and very useful definition of employee engagement here: Employee engagement definition
What is key to note is that employee engagement is different from both employee satisfaction and happiness. Employees can be both happy and satisfied at work but still not be prepared to give any discretionary effort. Employee happiness is largely controlled by the employee. It is a state of mind that an employee might, or might not feel whilst at work. An employee can come to work and be more than happy doing very little, and be very satisifed with the benefits and perks that you provide for them, but they may not be engaged.
Employee engagement, on the other hand, is largely controlled by the employer. Employers can steer their employees towards engagement through their employment practices and the management of their people.
One of our clients recently said this: “We keep facing the same problems because people just won’t use their initiative, or give anything more than what’s in their job description. They’re paid well, we have great benefits and a good team, and people seem happy. But there’s only a handful of us who seem to really care about getting things right and solving the issues that arise. Why is that?”
It’s possible that the handful of people the client referred to are the only truly engaged employees in the company.
Why should you care about employee engagement?
This is easiest to answer with a quote from Kevin Kruse:
“Engaged employees give discretionary effort. They’re going to sell harder. The service is going to be better. Productivity is going to be higher. That means customers are going to be happier. The more satisfied your customers are, the more they’re going to buy and the more they’re going to refer you. As sales go up, as profits go up… Employee engagement, so-called soft stuff leads to a hard ROI.”
How do organisations improve employee engagement?
Engaging an entire organisation of individual employees can be a challenge. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone – 36% of businesses see employee engagement as a top challenge (Rise People). But what can be done about it?
A useful model to use when looking at improving employee engagement in your organisation is Gallup’s employee engagement work. This is based on more than 30 years of in-depth behavioural economic research involving more than 17 million employees. Gallup’s work shows the four stages that employees move through on route to complete engagement.
Undertake an employee engagement survey
Conducting an employee engagement survey is the best way to understand the levels of engagement in your business and identify key areas that need addressing. You can repeat these surveys throughout the year to measure improvement and keep you on track to ensure long term engagement. To find out more about employee engagement surveys, read our tips for drafting your employee engagement survey.
If you want to design your own engagement survey, we recommend using Gallup’s twelve questions which are below and we have also indicated which stages of engagement the questions link to, as set out in the pyramid above.
- Do you know what is expected of you at work?
- Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
- At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
- In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
- Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
- Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
- At work, do your opinions seem to count?
- Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
- Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
- Do you have a best friend or good friend at work?
- In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
- In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?
How can you improve employee engagement at each of these stages?
Below, we have made recommendations on some actions you can take right now to improve engagement at each of the stages set out in Gallup’s engagement pyramid.
- Put in place a performance management process that involves regular feedback.
- Give your managers training in giving and receiving feedback.
- Good managers care about the well-being of their employees at work and in their personal lives – train your managers to be good managers.
- Ask your managers to seek genuine opportunities to praise or recognise their employees for a job well done.
- Help your employees develop professionally and in their careers.
- Recruit people that your teams will enjoy working with and who demonstrate the behaviours and values that you require for your organisation.
- Deal with problem behaviours and issues swiftly and effectively.
- Create opportunities for your employees to get to know each other socially and to build strong friendships at work.
- Give employees a voice through a staff forum, team meetings or HR software – engaged employees feel as though their opinions and ideas are values by their employers.
- Ensure that employees understand what the mission and purpose of your company is and how they can contribute to this.
- Provide tailored training and development opportunities in-house and externally for your employees.
- Find ways to show employees the career paths that are available to them if they want to progress in their careers.
- Seek opportunities for employees to get involved in projects and work outside their normal day to day tasks that give them opportunities to grow and develop their skills.
If you run an employee engagement survey and focus groups with your staff, you will also identify other pain points that can be addressed to improve employee engagement.
We hope you found this article useful. If you’d like to discuss how to improve employee engagement in your business, please contact our team by calling 01271 859267 or email firstname.lastname@example.org