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)
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.
Line managers need to ensure clarity:
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:
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:
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
Appendix 2: Strategic Narrative
Appendix 3: Engaging Managers
Appendix 4: Employee Voice
Appendix 5: Integrity