It’s now common knowledge among leading HR professionals that optimising the employee experience is crucial for ensuring your workforce remains happy and motivated. In turn, you’ll finally lay your hands on the golden goose of human resources: Employee engagement.
In this guide, we’ll take you through some of the key concepts underpinning the notion of employee engagement, explain why it matters to your organisation, and will provide practical advice on how you can establish a culture of commitment through a league of engaged employees at your workplace.
What is employee engagement?
Let us not get ahead of ourselves. We first need to understand the concept before we can start to improve employee engagement.
Though there are a number of definitions out there, employee engagement broadly refers to the level of dedication and enthusiasm that employees hold in regards to their tasks, responsibilities, and the overall objectives and culture of a workplace. Tellingly, it’s not directly related to pay, but engaged employees are often more profitable for their organisation as they trigger and reinforce business outcomes.
Employee engagement is a two-way process that requires a high degree of commitment not just from the individual employee, but from the company as well. Though it is a proven growth factor for business, it often remains overlooked by many companies—according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, just 15% of employees said they were engaged with their work.
Why engagement matters for people at work
An engaged employee is more likely to feel a sense of achievement when the company they work for succeeds. They take the time to understand the company mission they are a part of, and are committed to helping realise it. But to successfully engage an employee in their business goals, companies need to create a receptive environment open to continuous learning. In fact, research from Salesforce shows employees who feel as though their voice is being heard are 4.6 times more likely to be empowered to work to the best of their abilities every day. Meanwhile, those who believe they work for equal-opportunity employers are 3.8 times more likely to be proud of their organisation.
Why engagement matters at the organisational level
Though a good start, it’s not enough to engage a single employee; improving employee engagement company-wide is the key to achieving your business outcomes. At an organisational level, maximising employee engagement is a crucial factor for increasing long-term employee retention. Higher levels of employee retention help to foster a uniform corporate and organisational culture, and directing talent searches inwards can improve overall morale as well as leading to more consistent and reliable results when undergoing expansion.
A meta-analysis conducted by Gallup on how employee engagement drives company growth further shows that businesses that scored the highest on employee engagement were 22% more profitable and 21% more productive than those that ranked in the bottom quartile. It’s clear from this that when you improve employee engagement, both your employees and your organisation reap the rewards.
How to measure employee engagement
Measuring internal talent engagement can be a difficult task at times. It can depend on a range of factors and attitudes that aren’t necessarily concrete and changing every day. Nevertheless, there are certain benefits that can come from this type of analysis, as it allows for the building of trust and understanding how an employee is feeling about their place in an organisation.
The most effective methods for measurement nearly always include some kind of employee engagement survey. In order to ensure that these surveys are worthwhile, several key elements need to be considered:
- Engagement outcomes
- Employee motivation
Define the engagement outcomes
When conducting an engagement survey, you want to ask questions that identify feelings, attitudes and behaviours. Engagement outcomes are questions that generally measure employee perspectives on organisational pride and personal future work intentions, among other things. Ideally, they help to provide a more holistic view of current levels of employee engagement in a company, and identify areas for you to focus or improve on.
Recognise what your employees value
Ensure that your survey provides a wide range of topics related to employee engagement for participants to respond to, such as teamwork, individual recognition, and career progression. These three in particular can prove to be useful when seeking to identify the primary engagement drivers within your organisation.
Implement a continuous listening strategy
It may be tempting to provide a quarterly or even monthly survey for your company’s employees (particularly if it can be easily facilitated through the use of an eLearning platform). However, research from the Harvard Business Review has shown that annual employee engagement surveys tend to be just as valuable in terms of actionable feedback. Instead of using one or the other, these surveys should be supplemented with different modes of capturing employee voices, including pulse surveys and face-to-face meetings.
How to establish a culture of employee engagement
Perhaps the most crucial way in which employee engagement can be strengthened at your company is to make it a central part of the organisational culture. Here are some tips that, when executed properly, should help to foster employee engagement from the moment new hires join the organisation.
1. Don’t skip onboarding
Recent research from Sapling HR has shown that a great onboarding experience can increase the retention of new hires by up to 82%—and it’s not hard to see why. Say a new employee comes into the organisation already equipped with an understanding of their role and company culture. Knowing the standard of work expected, the business outcomes they’re contributing to and how people interact in the office, they’re far more likely to remain engaged with their work and overall organisational goals. Having an LMS integrated at this stage can help to deliver pre-employment orientation more easily, allowing new recruits to arrive at the office ready and confident they can fulfil their position’s requirements.
2. Set company goals
As part of an employee engagement strategy, it’s essential to have company goals outlined in the first place if you’re seeking to improve the commitment of your employees. Make sure these goals are flexible and relevant to their context, as rigid and seemingly arbitrary company goals can end up having a negative effect on engagement and a detrimental impact on work ethic.
3. Acknowledge employees
As briefly mentioned before, employee recognition plays a significant role in maintaining high levels of engagement. Whether it’s a personal milestone, the successful completion of a long project, or something entirely different, be sure to acknowledge the successes of your employees and let them know just how highly they are valued. You’re more likely to see a spike in the number of engaged employees when you give them an incentive to work towards.
4. Focus on employee development
To boost engagement, your organisation needs to provide opportunities for employees to learn and progress at each stage of the employee lifecycle and beyond the scope of their current role and associated work. In general, an LMS is an excellent way of providing your company’s employees with a self-directed method of development, as it gives them an avenue through which they can expand their skillset while staying engaged with your business goals. It’ll also give them a roadmap they can follow to achieve personal and professional goals through their work.
5. Don’t micromanage
There’s a reason the word has such a negative connotation. If your employees feel like they and their work is being micromanaged, they will very likely disengage and become demotivated due to the perceived excessive oversight. Micromanaging tends to impede employee development and cultivates a space of managerial dependence, where employees may be unable, or unwilling, to undertake their tasks in a self-directed manner.
6. Select the right managers
To avoid micromanaging, you need to select the right people for managerial roles at your company. Though there is no golden rule for this, a good manager should be able to delegate effectively and identify and nurture the strengths of individual employees. They should also be deeply engaged with their work and the overall company mission, as it sets a positive example for subordinates to look up to.
7. Coach managers
As further research from Gallup shows, managers tend to be responsible for the engagement levels of their employees. This means an engaged employee is a direct result of an engaged manager—and the rule works for disengaged employees and their respective managers, too. With this understanding, managers should be empowered through training to develop engagement plans for employees, align their work with business outcomes, track their progress, and provide easily defined engagement goals.
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