What is employee engagement and how can you improve it?
Here are some quick and easy to follow thoughts…
What is employee engagement?
According to Wikipedia, an engaged employee is one that is absorbed and fully enthusiastic about their work and takes action to better their organisation’s reputation and interests.
Gallup has found that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work, and disengaged employees equal costly outcomes. However, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share (Gallup). Better employee engagement makes companies 21% more profitable and improves rates of absenteeism, customer ratings and less safety incidents.
So HOW can you improve it?
Being an engaging manager…
Being a good listener is tough; many people think they are good listeners without considering what it means to actually “listen”. Often in conversations we are waiting to talk rather than actually listening to what people have to say. Similarly, being silent while someone is talking does not mean we are engaging with what they are saying. Creating a two way dialogue and prompting questions can lead to discovery and more cooperative conversations.
As a manager being available for one-to-ones and group conversations shows that you care about your employees and are available to talk to them about any challenges they are facing. Being an approachable and authentic manager means that you can engage with your direct reports about their future in the workplace.
- Set personalised goals for each employee
Creating personalised goals allows employees to find a way to give their own contribution to your business. Collaboratively setting goals moves away from top-down management. Personal goals look towards career development but also give focus for day to day work.
People on average spend 43.6 hours at work a week, averaging on more than 8 hours a day. With so much time spent at work, working for a purpose has never garnered so much importance. As Gallup has found, 50% of millennials said that they would take a pay cut in order to have purpose in work.
- Create meaningful conversations
Create a structured plan for meetings which provide clarity on any loose ends. One recommendation is setting out a 3 pronged structure for meetings with a beginning, middle and end, and making sure that meetings do not drag on and are appropriately “wrapped” up. Focusing on strengths-based development instills confidence through praise. Gallup finds that sales increase by 19% for strengths-based development workplaces. By focusing on employees strengths, the manager is actively engaging with their employees. Sometimes it is up to managers to guide employees to unlock their strengths or teach them how to use them.
- Consider.. management training
Managing human beings, both introverts and extroverts, with a wide range of skills can be overwhelming. Often managers become managers because they are the best in their field, yet many are not taught to manage. On average managers only get training in leadership skills ten years after they first became managers (Zenger Folkman). Often this is too late, and bad managerial habits have set in from the first year. Zenger argues that bad managerial traits are contagious and can lead to the formation of good habits or bad habits. His studies found that there is strong correlation between the behaviour of a manager and the impact on their subordinates in terms of their leading styles. Poor leadership can encourage a culture of dissatisfaction and disengagement among employees. A solution to safeguarding against dissatisfied employees is an investment in leadership training for managers and senior leaders.
Ditching Employee engagement surveys…
Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends highlighted that 85 per cent of executives surveyed pinpointed employee engagement as a top priority for 2016. Yet, there are better ways to listen to your employees than through timely, expensive surveys. Engagement surveys can be regarded as a de-personalised drop in the ocean.
As Liz Ryan candidly put in a Forbes article:
“How close would you feel to your spouse or partner if they gave you a survey to complete once a year, in order to let them know how you feel the relationship is going? You probably wouldn’t love that idea. Relationships don’t thrive because one party to the relationship sends the other party a survey to complete.”
Surveys are a mechanical process sending out a message to employees that their views on the workplace can be quantified once a year, in a bureaucratic fashion. It sends out the message that their job can be categorised into a few sections. Many employees never see the true results of surveys and find that giving feedback only once a year is not indicative of how they are feeling throughout the year and at different quarters.
Arguably there is no silver bullet for employee engagement. However managers and their leadership styles should be at the forefront for engaging employees at a localised level and also in terms of the culture of the feedback system in the organisation.