By Shahnaz Miah

Employee Engagement is a concept which fundamentally describes the nature of the relationship between an organisation and its employees. Organisations cannot achieve their goals by just defining their mission statement. In order to fulfil their goals an organisation needs actively engaged employees.

An ‘engaged employee’ has a positive attitude about organisation values; is fully immersed and devoted to their role responsibilities, and takes further positive action to enhance the brand image, reputation and interest of the organisation.

In contrast a ‘disengaged employee’ ranges from an individual ‘coasting’ (minimum productivity) to one that is proactively damaging organisations out-put and reputation.

Employee engagement is not motivation or job satisfaction. Motivation focuses on accomplishing productive action, (getting results). However this is not to be confused with engagement.  As an individual can be highly motivated to accomplish something, in which they are not fully engaged with. Employee happiness may or may not have to do with being engaged at work. An individual may dislike their job, but are happy due to non-work related issues.

Most employers want their employees to be happy and motivated at work, and feel they are being valued. By addressing employee engagement, employers can indirectly address motivation and happiness, which leads to higher productivity, lower employee turnover and generate higher returns.

There are different dimensions to employee engagement these can be cognitive, physical and emotional. Cognitive engagement relates to the needs for the employee to be aware and aligned to organisational strategy, and know what they need to do to deliver optimal returns on their work efforts. Physical engagement describes, physical and mental energy to perform role responsibilities. Emotional engagement is concerned with the degree which employees feel that they can connect/trust the organisation and its people. (Kahn, 1990)

Coupled with this is the different mindsets (affective, continuance, normative commitment) (appendix 1).  Employees become emotionally attached to an organisation for various reasons. Some, are committed to their jobs as they love what they do and the company values resonate with them, others stay out of fear of what they could lose, whilst others feel obligated to stay.

It is essential for organistaions to invest its effort into communication, to ensure employees know what organistaional goals are; Mission, Vision and Values. (Cognitive Engagement). At the same time recognise the importance of taking steps to create an environment of trust/involvement; employee opinion survey, (Emotional Engagement).  Physical/mental well-being also needs to be high on the agenda (desk-assessments, health checks etc). (Physical Engagement)

There are key drivers which are required to help with employee engagement in the workplace.

Strategic Narrative

For employees to be fully engaged, they must understand the story of the organisation; past, present and future. When strategic narrative exists everyone in the organisation should have a full understanding of their role responsibilities, the value which they bring, and how their contributions help the  organisation to achieve its goals.

Five essential requirements:
  • Strategic
  • Clear Narrative
  • Authentic
  • Provided
  • Told by Leaders (appendix 2)
Engaging Managers

Line managers need to ensure clarity:

  • Employees are clear on their role responsibilities
  • What success looks like
  • Recognise each person as an individual (allow creativity/personality)
  • Provide Feedback
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Acknowledge good performance
  • Address flawed behaviours. (appendix 3)
Employee Voice

Employee Voice Ensuring and creating a safe environment where employees are listened to, from top – down, are able to suggest ideas, and challenge behavior/poor performance, without fear of being ignored or ridiculed.

This can be done through various methods:

  • Employee Engagement Surveys
  • Regular Face to Face Meetings
  • Suggestions Schemes
  • Corporate Social Media Networks
  • Consultation Forums (appendix 4)
Integrity

Organisations must put into practice the desired values/behaviours which they promote through their mission, vision and values.

Ways in which trust and integrity can be built:

  • Setting, enforcing and reinforcing expected behaviours
  • Open Culture
  • F2F Meetings
  • Feedback/Reporting
  • Back to floor initiatives (appendix 5)

These engagement drivers, have significant benefits for key, employees, managers, organisation and customers alike.

Engaged employees feel a greater connection with the organisation, (higher employee satisfaction) gives a sense of purpose; enjoying what you do each day and being motivated to achieve goals. This leads to higher productivity; engaged employees who are treated well by their managers feel a sense of responsibility to reciprocate this respect by putting in their best effort. Which in turn leads to improved performance, higher retention and lower turnover, less absenteeism, increased employee loyalty, which benefits both the organisation (increased profitability) and the customer (satisfaction/loyalty).

Appendix 1: Mindsets

  • Affective Commitment: Being attached to an organisation out of choice.  Wanting to be there.
  • Continuance Commitment: Being happy with the benefits and rewards and a feeling of fairness.
  • Normative Commitment: Obligation through recognition and understanding.

Appendix 2: Strategic Narrative

  • Strategic: It needs to give a clear direction for people, while being structured and short
  • Clear Narrative: A beginning, middle and future. It should help people feel part of something and make them want to stay by bringing purpose and meaning to their working lives.
  • Authentic: Everyone in the organisation needs to believe it and live it. It should use language that everyone is comfortable with and which resonates with employees across the whole business.
  • Provided: The leaders of the organisation need to tell the story, to ensure there is no room for rumour or speculation. Even better, the leaders should involve the rest of the workforce on developing the story together.
  • Told by leaders: But not just senior managers. The larger the organisation, the more visible and empowered leaders should be to ensure the story is seen and heard by everyone.

Appendix 3: Engaging Managers

  • Make each of us feel part of the team
  • Agree clear objectives with us and show us how our work contributes to the organisations objectives
  • Coach us and stretch us and bring the best out of us
  • Give us regular, thoughtful, honest and constructive feedback on our performance
  • Do not walk past ‘dysfunctional behavior’
  • Thank us for our work
  • Are approachable and available when needed
  • Take time to get to know us
  • Look out for our welfare
  • Are discreet and can be trusted

Appendix 4: Employee Voice

  • Employee Engagement Surveys: Employers can use employee engagement surveys to measure levels of employee engagement, which can help them to identify where to take action to improve engagement and enhance performance.
  • Regular Face to Face Meetings: Helps develop trust, builds relationships and transparency easily.
  • Suggestion Schemes: Methodical tool of management of an organisation for improvement. By implementing suggestion schemes organisations can improve their profits, reduce costs, enhance employees morale, improve retention of employees, facilitate innovation, and improve responsiveness to the public by improvements in service.
  • Corporate Social Media Networks: More and more organisations are launching internal social media platforms such as Yammer or Workplace by Facebook. When used to their best effect, these networks can help to create the conditions of collaboration. The impact of internal communication on employee engagement should not be underestimated. Social media can help create and share the organisational story, as well as allowing employees to connect outside their immediate teams and departments.  Internal social media is all about building relationships.
  • Consultation Forums: Consultation forums involves taking account of as well as listening to the views of employees and must therefore take place before decisions are made. Consultation does not always mean that employees views always have to be acted on since there maybe good practical or financial reasons for not doing so.  However whenever employees views are rejected the reasons for doing so should be carefully explained. Equally where the views and ideas of employees help to improve a decision due credit and recognition should be given.

Appendix 5: Integrity

  • Setting, enforcing and reinforcing the behaviours expected of staff – by rewarding desired behaviours and dismissing perpetrators of unwanted behaviours, such as bullying or harassment
  • Building a culture where all employees tell the truth, share information, are open-minded and respond to ideas or suggestions when they are made
  • Conducting regular, ongoing, honest, face-to-face meetings with staff, where leaders discuss changes in the organisation and invite comments, views and ideas
  • Reporting back on goals and priorities set by the organisation, particularly on actions promised by the top team
  • Back to the floor initiatives, where senior leaders spend time with more junior staff, carrying out the everyday duties of operational employees.