More and more organisations are investing in improving employee engagement, and this year we’ll see another leap forward in the sophistication and impact of those investments. The benefits of engaged, motivated employees are well understood; they are more productive, more likely to stay, more creative, better at customer service, more profitable and generally happier.
It's more than an internal satisfaction survey indicator; employee engagement is the level of emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation and its goals (Forbes).
What is employee engagement?
There's a great anecdote that sums up a highly engaged workforce:
John F. Kennedy, on a tour of NASA headquarters in 1961 at the height of the space race, stopped to speak to a janitor who was mopping the floor. Kennedy asked what the man did at NASA. The man with the mop replied. “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”
That man understood his purpose. He believed in it and was able to state it clearly. And you can bet that the floors at NASA were shinier as a result.
This level of engagement is driven from the top of the organisation. It comes from an organisation’s culture and is reflected in words, behaviours and strategies, for people to believe in it and contribute towards it positively, everyone in the company must live it every day.
Can you measure employee engagement?
This Gallup data found that companies with highly engaged employees are 21 percent more profitable and 20 percent more productive. There's no definitive way to measure employee engagement; it’s a complex combination of human emotions. Regularly checking on employees, asking them and encouraging them to be open and honest when it comes to surveys.
There are things you can do to make sure you’re getting as many data points as possible to make an informed prediction of your levels of engagement. According to research conducted by Xerox HR Services in 2016:
- 69% of companies use an Annual Employee Survey
- 21% use Pulse-Style research
- 18% do not measure levels
- 8% use an employee engagement platform
Trying to measure the engagement levels of a workforce may seem a challenging task, but the traditional method that many organisations use, the annual all-employee survey, can yield important data. Surveys usually include around 40 questions on areas such as leadership, strategy and benefits.
Employee Engagement Survey
This can be a minefield when it comes to qualitative data collection, done correctly it can be a very useful source of data. However when push comes to shove the yearly survey is something that not enough time is allocated to, most managers get their staff to complete quickly and check the box quickly. By not allowing enough time for the subject to give a second thought about how the questions make people feel and how engaged they really are is detrimental to the results.
The survey itself, needs to be more than a checkbox activity, be sure to include questions you really want to know the answer to, open communication lines and shared goals can boost engagement so ask if they know/embody the company values. Find out what it is that drives people to spend the best years of their working life with your company and not another one.
How employee engagement drives growth
The research shows incredible numbers when it comes to the return on investment for highly engaged employees:
- Organisations with engaged employees outperform those with low engagement by 202%.
- Three quarters of employees that work for companies with financial performance that is significantly above average are moderately or highly engaged.
- Research revealed engaged companies have five times higher shareholder returns over five years
- According to another 2016 Gallup meta-analysis study of over one million employees working for 230 companies in 49 different industries, those businesses with employee engagement scores within the top quartile of Gallup’s database have 70% fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom quartile.
- A 2015 SHRM study found 70% of surveyed employees ranked being empowered to take action on the job when a problem or opportunity presented itself as an important part of their engagement.
- Companies with engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins.
Engaging for success - when it comes to the productivity of an engaged member of staff there isn’t a comparison, making these investments and showing you care, by continually monitoring, investing and listening to your team members can set you up for success; and help you effectively manage working relationships.
How to increase employee engagement
A crucial first step in employee engagement strategies is to energise and inspire your team. Communicating enthusiasm and passion is just part of this. Employees need to know that their work makes a difference, that it matters. It helps make employees feel more involved, eager to contribute and can help avoid procrastination.
Most of the research can be divided into the following areas:
- Provide a clear vision. Employees need to understand the vision and goals of your business. They need to understand how their role contributes to organisational success. Use staff meetings to create a dialogue about the business’s vision regularly. Discuss how every employee can help achieve your vision and goals. Clear communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is vastly important.
- Focus on culture. Developing a rewarding culture goes a long way toward improving engagement. Make sure team members feel valued. Start with a great onboarding experience and continue by recognising and rewarding superior job performance. Give employees praise about their job performance.
- Build trust and respect with team members by keeping them informed. Even if you have to deliver bad news, employees appreciate honest, accurate, timely information. Keep the lines of communication open between all levels of the organisation.
- Value Feedback. Give staff regular, timely feedback, which improves efficiency by reinforcing the job performance you want and discouraging behaviors you don’t. Be sure to solicit feedback from staff as well, which further assists in efforts to improve operations. Address any employee concerns and strive to facilitate a more creative approach to problem-solving.
- Develop managers. Managers play an integral role in engagement. First and foremost, managers must be engaged themselves before they can act on employee engagement in the business. If managers are frustrated and unhappy about aspects of their job, they aren’t likely to be a positive influence on the rest of the team. Formulate a plan to increase managers’ engagement if they are not fully engaged.
- Create employee developmental plans. Employee developmental plans improve job satisfaction and employee engagement because they facilitate career development through teaching and learning. If business is slow, there is no excuse not to spend time on training and staff development. Tailor developmental plans for each staff member. Set quarterly or monthly goals for employees to complete the training necessary to achieve new skills or proficiency levels.
How digital learning can help
Learning and expanding on skills is an effective pathway toward employee empowerment. Learning helps employees become better versed and prepared in their fields. In turn, these employees can become continuous learners, ever growing, and sharing their new skills and knowledge with others in the organisation.
There are a number of actions leaders can take to help empower employees through Invest in a comprehensive digital learning library to support talent development, individual learning needs and internal development initiatives. Off the shelf digital learning programmes such as Aspire help employees accelerate their skills development building on current knowledge, and following prescribed learning paths to future roles.
Aspire - skills development acceleration
Encourage your employees to engage in self-directed learning and self-assessment. Allowing people to learn skills they are motivated to master at their own pace, results in a more motivated learning experience. Options to work from home or flexible working is a good example of this.
Self-assessment encourages individual employees to take charge of their own professional development, monitoring their own progress, and motivating them to take control of their professional advancement. All of this is facilitated by creating a culture of continuous learning. Be open with your team about what drives you, and how you apply your new knowledge and skills. Let others see what you see, that the investment in learning is worth it.
Then, encourage others to apply the knowledge and skills they learn. This helps promote lifelong learning, and spreads the passion. Foster a culture of community learning and a growth mindset of innovation, flexibility, and adaptability. Provide access to learning resources, and the time to use them.
Contact us to learn how digital technology such as our Percipio Learning Platform can help promote a more vibrant learning culture in your organisation and create high-performing teams.