Employee Engagement: Are You Doing It Right?
As the calendar rushes toward 2020, Human Resources (HR) and benefits professionals begin to shift focus from the new year’s tactical requirements to more strategic pursuits. For many, this includes a new (or renewed) focus on employee engagement.
And whether the push for improved employee engagement comes from the C-Suite or elsewhere, the results can be powerful…when it’s done right.
According to Gallup — the company that first identified employee engagement — companies with top-quartile engagement scores average 18 percent higher productivity, twice the annual net profit, and 2.5 times the revenue growth than those in the bottom quartile. Other studies show that high levels of engagement lead to fewer lost time incidents, improved wellbeing, fewer sick days, and lower turnover.
Unfortunately, despite businesses investing millions of dollars to improve employee engagement in recent years, the needle has barely moved. Gallup has found that 34 percent of U.S. employees are “engaged,” meaning they’re involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace. While this is up from 29 percent in 2011, it means there are still 66 percent of employees who are either not engaged or actively disengaged (AKA miserable).
So, do I need an employee engagement strategy?
I’d argue no. The phrase “employee engagement strategy” implies there’s a pre-set equation you can apply to make employees engaged. But employee engagement actually comes from within each person. It’s the emotional connection that an employee has to the organization that causes them to want to make the additional effort to help the organization succeed.
In other words, wages, benefits, training efforts, wellness programs, recognition programs, and work-life balance, are all important…fantastic even…but they deliver job satisfaction, not engagement.
Instead, what you really want is to increase the likelihood that employees will establish a positive emotional connection with your organization. You can’t make them do it, but you can create an environment in which it’s more likely to grow.
OK, so where do I start?
Start with the most important factor: your employees. If you want to know where to make improvements, ask them. Put together a coherent and relevant employee engagement survey that’s going to provide you with lots of relevant data. Then gather responses, disseminate the data, and do something about it. Too many times, companies gather this information and they fail to take action. This doesn’t send a good message to your people.
Also, start with reasonable expectations. Remember that even if you implement all the best employee engagement efforts around, you won’t be 100 percent successful. Everyone is unique and has slightly different needs; there will always be outliers that you just cannot reach.
No, really, where do I start?
If you want people to form that positive emotional connection with your workplace — to enjoy being at work and contributing to the overall effort — you need to meet their basic needs. Rather than focusing on “engagement” and trying to fix that, focus on these fundamental needs and engagement will follow:
- I’m Valued. People need to know their contributions provide value. Managers should focus on the people who report to them, make them feel part of the team, show how their work contributes to the company’s goals, coach them, stretch them, and bring out the best in them.
- I Matter. People need to really believe that what they (and their employer) are working towards matters. If they don’t, they’re less invested in the outcomes and less likely to stay in the long-term. Leaders should be clear about the organization’s mission and why it’s important. And employees should see where they fit in the company’s story.
- I Belong. People should identify with the values of the place they work, and these values should accurately reflect the workplace culture. Your people are the strands that make up the fabric of your company; they should understand what the values are and also feel comfortable being themselves at work.
- I’m Empowered. People need access to the appropriate tools, information, and processes. They also need clarity on how to find help, get work done, and make decisions. And, they need to have that fine balance of support and hands-off management so they can get their work done.
- I’m Respected. People need to feel they’re respected so they can freely express themselves and feel heard. If they do, trust will grow and collaboration will bloom. They need to be involved, listened to, and invited to contribute their expertise and ideas.
Can we help?
Why yes, we can! In fact, our partner Holmes Murphy has created a new company called ethOs, led by Ali Payne, to focus on this critical area. Here’s how to get started:
Facebook & LinkedIn: @yourethos
Cheers to a great ending to 2019, and an amazing start to 2020!