What is Employee Engagement (EE)?
Employee Engagement is a concept that is becoming increasingly more the focus for today’s business leaders. It should be seen as an element of organisational culture and has been mainstreamed into the management culture over the past decade as a way of defining that little extra that some companies get from their employees. Some see it as “the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work”. Others define it as “an internal state of being: physical, mental and emotional – that brings together earlier concepts of work effort, organisational commitment, job satisfaction and ‘flow’ (or optimal experience)”. In its simplest definition EE is about the employee being involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work. Engaged employees care about the future of the company and are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that the organization succeeds. They will “walk through walls for you”. It is therefore not that surprising that most C-level managers see EE as becoming more and more important. If your employees perform at the top of their potential then it makes sense that the teams, departments and whole organisations will be more effective.
What are the key elements of Employee Engagement?
Most researchers, when discussing EE, look at it from an intellectual, affective and social perspective. This academic perspective is very useful for high level definitions but less useful when designing employee engagement programs. A different, more user friendly way of defining key elements of employee engagement is to define them as: commitment, motivation, loyalty and trust.
Commitment: The degree to which employees associate themselves with their job, their responsibilities and the organisational objectives. Engaged employees are those who are committed to their job and are ready to face any challenges in order to achieve their goals. They are dependable, highly productive, feel accountable and take ownership of their tasks.
Motivation: The level of desire employees feel to perform, regardless of the level of happiness. Employees who are adequately motivated to perform will be more productive, more engaged, and feel more interested in their work. When employees feel these things, it helps them, and thereby their managers, be more successful.
Loyalty: A personal commitment to the organization or the extent to which the personnel are faithful to the organization, having feelings of bonding, inclusion, care, responsibility and devotion towards it.
Trust: For Employee Engagement to thrive in an organisation, trust must be present both from the managers towards the employees and from employees towards their managers. Trust is created through management’s credibility, the respect with which employees feel they are treated, and the extent to which employees expect to be treated fairly.
All these elements need be present amongst the staff for an organisation to be able to say that they have a high level of Employee Engagement. However, it doesn’t take much time for actively engaged employees to turn into disengaged employees if the organisation doesn’t consciously support EE.
Identifying That You Have An Employee Engagement Problem
Before any EE enhancement programmes are implemented, it is important to first find out if there are any shortcomings in the current engagement levels. Trying to introduce an enhancement programme in an organisation with already engaged employees will not result in any major changes. However, recognising any of the following statements within your organisation could indicate that you have an engagement issue.
- Employees feel removed from business objectives and do not understand how they contribute to the end result.
- Absenteeism is increasing and is above industry averages
- Employees are afraid to voice their opinions
- Staff turnover levels are above the industry average
- There is a feeling of passivity across the departments
- Exceptional performance is neither defined, recognised or rewarded
- New leadership initiatives fail to gain support
- Difficult to attract the right type of new employees
- Employees do not trust their managers
- Decisions are not followed through
- There is a lack of collaboration and information sharing
- Customer satisfaction levels are low or decreasing
- There are issues with bullying or harassment
How to Implement Employee Engagement
As with any major change programme, introducing EE is a long term endeavour. Some initial changes can go fairly quickly but to realise the full potential of EE will take time. There are five main steps to any EE implementation:
Define what is employee engagement in your organisation and how increasing EE will benefit your business?
The first step sets the ground for the project. It is about defining what engagement means for your organisation and what are the key drivers to achieve it. As a part of this exercise you need to define if you indeed have an engagement problem and what it is you trying to achieve. It also should include a cost calculation and the potential benefit.
Define Current Levels of Engagement
Before any changes can be carried out, the current state of EE needs to be understood. It can be done using either quantitative or qualitative methods or ideally a combination of the two. The research should also provide some insights of the key drivers for the desired change and more specific evaluation KPIs. This phase should result in a map of both good and problematic areas.
Develop Change and Implementation Plan
The project plan will need to cover all organisational levels and support managers at all levels. As a minimum it will have to: create a motivational culture, start with the top, individualise engagement, link engagement to high performance, create feedback mechanisms, reinforce and reward the right behaviours.
All the activity and change drivers defined in the previous phases will now need to be implemented. A large chunk of this work will need to be performed by supervisors and mid level managers with the support of HR and project team.
Review and Sustain
As the project comes to a close, the results will have to be measured. It is important to understand the timing implementation and not to expect certain outcomes too early. Even though the project is finished, what has been implemented will need to continue being sustained. The responsibility for EE will therefore need to be passed on to the HR department.
Excelr8 can help develop Employee Engagement capabilities
Our specialists can design and help implement employee enhancement programs as a part of operational excellence. Please contact us for a no fee and no obligation discussion.