At CakeandHR we have been talking about employee engagement since our very first event. This is because employee engagement encompasses just about every HR process you have ever needed. Be it comp & bens, reward & recognition, succession planning & personal development, organisational development & strategic vision. All of these initiatives have the potential to impact employee engagement in a positive or a negative way.
So why is employee engagement important?
Highly engaged employees benefit everyone, not just themselves, but colleagues and the organisation as a whole and that is probably because engaged employees have a strong psychological commitment to the business or its vision.
We can generally see if our employees are happy, but a happy employee is not the same as an engaged employee, engagement is not necessarily something we can see, but it is something we can measure.
There have been many studies and white papers published that show the connection between employee engagement and organisational success. But, what is the best way to measure engagement in our own work environment?
In their 2021 ‘evidence review’ of employee engagement, the CIPD report that the ‘Utrecht Work Engagement Scale’ is the most trustworthy measure that includes the word engagement. But there are many other scales. Aston University, Business School have produced a useful document ‘employee engagement, a brief review of definitions, theoretical perspectives and measures’, well worth a read if you are designing your own employee engagement survey.
So, what are the 7 strategies that we think are a good place to start (in no order)?
1. USE AN ENGAGEMENT SURVEY; but think very carefully about what you want to measure and why? Whichever engagement scale you decide upon, an engagement survey is a great way of taking a pulse check, a snapshot in time to understand how engaged employees feel ‘right now’. Remember though, that if you ask employees to complete a survey, they will expect the results to be communicated and appropriate action to be taken where areas for concern are identified.
Running a survey and then not communicating the results can make matters worse and the cardinal sin would be to communicate results which show an area for concern and then do nothing about it!
2. ASK BEFORE INTRODUCING SOMETHING NEW; when you have your survey results, you will be able to identify the main ‘drivers’ of engagement in your workplace. One of the most common drivers of engagement is ‘reward’, but this doesn’t necessarily mean high salaries, it can be any form of recognition or employee benefit.
When you have identified solutions for improving engagement through reward, we recommend that you ‘pilot’ any new initiative for the first 12 months and then check the return on that investment before embedding it in your reward structure.
3. LISTEN; engaged employees are enthusiastic about what they do. They are motivated and willing to go the extra mile. They're aligned with the company values. They're proactive and look for ways to do things better, rather than getting stuck in ways that don't work and they do this because they feel able to contribute to the organisations vision or the success of the team or project.
This means we need to listen. Build opportunities for both informal and formal feedback from employees to the business (as well as the other way around) into your performance framework. Employees who feel they have a voice, will feel as if they are contributing to something much bigger than the requirements of the job.
4. PURPOSE: is an Employee Engagement Driver and a win-win for all involved. Employees who feel a sense of purpose in their work tend be happier, healthier, and more productive, they share the same purpose driven mission of why the company does what they do.
For many organisations, Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives are one way of communicating ‘why’.
As with point 3, employee engagement strengthens when employers explain how employees are contributing to the success of the business.
5. THE MANAGER AS COACH: let's face it: nobody really likes to be 'managed'. But we all could do with being 'coached'. This shift in how managers communicate with employees can make a huge difference in how engaged employees feel.
6. PROGRESSION: employees who can identify a structured career path for them and who feel their workplace culture is one that actively supports personal growth and development, are less likely to ‘look elsewhere’ to achieve the next level in their career.
7. BUILD IN PROCESS REVIEW: Any process is designed to get you from A to B. The process you use to improve employee engagement is no different; A = where you are now, and B = your goal for the future. Whether you use a formal ‘continuous improvement process’, such as Lean, Kaizen, Total Quality Management or, something less formal, the point is that at agreed timescales on your journey between A and B, you need to evaluate what parts of the process work and what doesn’t.
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