As the economy continues to improve and more jobs become available, employee engagement will be an essential part of retaining your top talent. Engagement is defined as the emotional connection that an employee feels toward their organization, which influences them to exert greater effort to their work. How important is engagement to your organization? It is extremely important if you consider employee motivation, satisfaction, loyalty, productivity and performance essential to the success of your company.
How do you know if your workforce is engaged? A common response from many
employers is ìWe have low turnover so we must have an engaged work force. This
is not necessarily true; there are many levels of employee engagement, and
retention is not engagement. Employees can have different levels of engagement
ranging from highly engaged to highly disengaged. As employers, we need to ask
ourselves a few questions: What do you know about your employeesí satisfaction,
why are they working for our organization and what makes them stay? If you
canít answers these questions, then you have some work to do. There are a
number of factors that influence someoneís decision to stay with a company, and
one of them may not be engagement.
There are a few things to consider when evaluating engagement. First, engagement
is not constant. Think of how many changes your company has implemented in the
last 12 months. Were they all positive? Was there a change in management? How
did these changes affect the work force? Have you asked? The second factor to
consider is that engagement is not portable; you cannot take it with you when
you leave a job or department. Each department in your organization has an
engagement level that is unique to it.
Different levels of engagement can be seen in every work force. Employees
typically fall into one of three categories ñ engaged, not engaged and actively
disengaged. Engaged employees are passionate about what they do and feel a
strong connection to the company. Research shows that engaged employees are
more productive, create stronger relationships with co-workers and customers,
and they stay with their organization longer. Employees that are not engaged
show up for work every day but have no passion about what they do or the
company they work for. Actively disengaged employees are not happy and they do
not contribute to the company in a positive way. In fact, it is likely that
these employees are spreading their negative feelings to others. The question
is, how do we keep the engaged employees engaged, change the not engaged
employees to engaged employees, and how do we handle those employees who are
Since engagement is a state of mind and since each person is different, there
is no single driver of engagement. Some factors that may affect the engagement
of your workforce include the relationship with their direct supervisor;
employees want to communicate with their managers even if the news is not
always positive. Well-crafted and targeted communication can be one of the most
effective HR tools for improving or sustaining employee engagement. This will
keep employees focused and productive. Employees need to know their job is
important to the company and what is expected of them. They also want to know
that there is a fair and equitable system for career advancement, and that if
they perform they will be considered for advancement.
Who is responsible for creating a work environment that encourages engagement?
Ownership of engagement should be from the top down; it is the responsibility
of all leaders. By focusing on open communication, creating a culture where
engagement is seen as a priority, and through endorsing employee surveys, you
can begin to understand your current engagement levels. Low levels of
engagement have a negative impact on productivity and performance. Your company
may not be able to handle the increased demand that a recovering economy
brings. Engagement is critical in being able to manage the increased demands
without incurring unnecessary costs. Low levels of engagement can be infectious
to new and existing employers, so it is important to figure out where you stand
as soon as possible.
Measuring engagement can be done in a number of different ways. Formal methods
such as surveys and informal networks can be useful, but you have to ask the
right questions. Surveys can be an effective tool if used regularly. It is
important that you track results from year to year, and to compare those
results to see if your company is moving in the right direction. Communicate
both positive and negative survey results, and commit to taking action in key
areas that will likely increase the level of employee engagement. Later in the
year, communicate what you have implemented as a result of feedback provided by
the survey. Another method of measuring engagement is Informal networks, which
can give you immediate feedback of your employeesí feelings and attitudes. You
may notice that some of your managers are closely connected with their
employees, working on projects and socializing outside of the office.
Interacting with these individuals will give you some informal insight into how
employees might react to potential programs or changes.
Companies that want to effectively manage their recovery will take action in a
number of key areas that will drive the most improvement. Small changes in the
right direction and area can mean big wins for your organization. By listening
to your employees through formal surveys and acting on the areas of opportunity,
you will see an increase year after year in the morale of your
Another key area where you should invest time and money is your employees! If
you can afford to adjust employeesí pay that had previously been cut, then do
it! Employees need to feel their skills and the work they do is meaningful and
makes and impact. Therefore, show your employees that there are clear links
between your organizations goals, your teamsí performance and their individual
performance. Rewards and recognition should be tied to these goals as well.
Above all, communicate! Communication is key ñ it must be frequent, consistent,
open and honest. Engaged employees are more productive and profitable, and you
will need them as the economy recovers!
As the Economy Recovers, How Important is Employee Engagement?
February 1, 2011