What is Employee Engagement, Why is it Crucial, and How can you Improve it in your Organisation?
If you’re not convinced that employee engagement is a fundamental part of your business that you need to get right, perhaps it’s worth highlighting the costs and implications for the business of disengaged people. According to PeopleMetrics, a disengaged employee can cost the company up to $10,000. And that’s just the impact of one disengaged employee, so imagine if you have more than one! Not only are there cost implications of a disengaged workforce, but there’s also the risk of lower productivity, management time wasted on turnover, and potentially a culture that no one feels happy in. So, employee engagement is vital for your company and its success, and it’s not something to ignore as it’s unlikely to stop with just one person.
What is employee engagement?
There is no set definition of employee engagement, but it’s linked to employee satisfaction and an employee’s state of mind. Their attitude about their job and company will be impacted by their motivation towards the job and company and workplace conditions and culture, which are subject to change. So, although you can’t change each person's mindset, you can influence people by providing the best environment possible and ensuring that specific work areas are catered for and satisfied.
The more engaged a workforce is, the better their productivity and customer service; there should be lower retention (so reduced spend on hiring and training new people), which creates a culture of engagement. However, engagement goes beyond having a happy workforce; you need to ensure your people care. They need to be invested in the company and its success and fully understand its goals and contribution.
So, you have to measure employee engagement. Otherwise, you have no idea of the current engagement levels or what you need to improve engagement.
Which areas should you focus on?
In 2009, Engaging for Success (or the MacLeod Report) focused on UK organisations with high employee engagement and performance. They concluded that there was no ‘One size fits all’ approach to managing employee engagement there are four engagement enablers that help improve engagement, which are:
- Employee voice – employee opinions are crucial, and employees should be asked for feedback, listened to, and should be able to share their ideas and experiences.
- Strategic narrative – leaders should be visible and empowering and must provide a strong strategic narrative about the company and where it’s going.
- Organisational integrity – if promises are made to employees, they must be followed through, or if not, there should be an explanation. Daily thought and behaviour throughout the company should reflect the company values.
- Engaging managers – managers should focus on their people, coach and stretch them and treat them as individuals.
How can you measure engagement?
There are various ways to measure engagement. But, the most important thing is that your company is actually measuring engagement.
It’s worth taking the time to consider the other available options and plan it carefully- this ensures you are measuring the most important areas. Another aspect is that this is done at regular intervals. Data suggests that if employees can participate in a regular feedback programme at work, they are up to 17% more engaged.
So, it’s time to consider your feedback options:
Employee engagement surveys – whether you create, distribute, and analyse the survey and results in-house or use software or external providers, surveys are a brilliant way to assess the engagement of your people. Surveys can determine job satisfaction, communication, culture, and many other aspects of the employee life cycle.
Pulse surveys – are often carried out more regularly than employee surveys and may be used to gain feedback on specific business areas, teams in the company. Alternatively, pulse surveys should carried out when change has occurred (and you need to know how your people are feeling about it). Pulse surveys are quicker and easier to administer than all employee surveys, and they give you an immediate snapshot of how your people are feeling and their engagement levels.
Management meetings – another way to gain feedback from your people is to ask your managers to speak to their teams and find responses to certain questions or specific business areas. These may work well to gain some quick feedback, but if employees have concerns about their manager or team, they may not answer honestly in such an open environment.
How can you improve employee engagement?
According to Gallup’s 2021 survey of engagement in the US, 34% of employees were engaged, and 16% were actively disengaged. It was the first year in a decade that employee engagement had decreased. And while there’s little surprise that engagement has taken a hit during a global pandemic, the challenge to improve engagement remains.
However, many companies showed increased engagement, and Gallup believes this is down to getting their engagement fundamentals right, including communication, senior management involvement, and accountability.
Firstly, you need feedback from your people to understand the issues or concerns to know the areas that require improvement. Without their input, you will guess and speculate about the problems and solutions. Therefore, once you have carried out surveys, you can create action plans and set plans into motion for improvement.
How to create an engagement culture?
Ideally, you want to create a culture where employee engagement is constantly high, and you don't need to keep measuring it. There are some strategies you can use to develop a culture of engagement, commitment, and motivation:
Performance management is an essential component of your workplace culture. An effective performance management strategy can develop your people and create a high-performance culture by aligning employee performance to business goals. Engagement should be high if every employee experiences a culture where their performance is measured and communicated and clear goals are set and reviewed.
Realistically, not every manager will develop their people according to a specific performance management cycle throughout the year. Likewise, not every company will set clear goals and objectives for the company and their people. However, an effective, well-planned, continuous performance management cycle should allow goal and performance transparency. Employees should be clear on exactly what they need to do and how they can contribute to their team and the broader company to increase engagement.
Training and Development
As part of the performance management cycle, every employee should have the opportunity to discuss training needs and development. Managers will suggest areas they consider individuals require action in, but they should also discuss what training or development employees want. Once decisions about training or development have been agreed upon, they should be carried out and adhered to. Employees should feel like they are getting some choice in their development, but they should also be motivated when the training or development commences.
Research has shown that training and development can improve employee engagement by increasing job satisfaction, pride and advocacy, retention, and organisational commitment. Therefore, leaders must discuss training and development during the performance management cycle, and if training is agreed to, it needs to happen! In addition, digital training platforms can benefit the process, and training processes should be well planned and regularly reviewed.
Communication is essential for a high-performing workforce. Your people need to know the company goals and strategy for the period ahead, and they need to be kept up to date with company changes and achievements. It’s a good idea for senior leaders to organsie regular staff meetings. These meetings should be accessable by all employees regardless of location so that everyone can hear company messages from leadership promptly and nothing reaches them via the rumour mill.
Each company will have its own internal communication channels, including the company intranet, weekly newsletters, emails, and management meetings. Open, regular communication also allows a shared purpose among your people and a culture of trust and inclusion.
Feedback should be a two-way process within every organisation. The reality is that feedback is often only given by managers to their employees and only during appraisals. However, if you can create a culture where feedback is given regularly and throughout the company, there will be more learning, development, and, ideally, awareness. Feedback can also be peer-to-peer, 360 degree, and continuous.
The Bottom Line
Your company should implement a strategy for giving and receiving regular feedback at all levels. This may involve different feedback tools appropriate for your company, and over time this open feedback culture should enhance employee engagement.
Employee engagement is crucial to the success of your business, but it’s not something you can change overnight. It’s essential to measure it first to understand the levels of engagement and which areas need change. And don’t try and change everything at once! Instead, try and focus on the most significant areas and ensure that each team receives feedback and action plans. A culture where regular, cross-level feedback is the norm and open and inclusive communication takes time and buy-in. But if your employees know that you value their input and want to make changes, this will hopefully improve engagement.
Sorwe provides the tools you need to assess, evaluate, and improve your employees' engagement. Please get in touch with us to learn more about how Sorwe solutions can help you improve your employee engagement practices.