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Employee Engagement

What is Employee Engagement and How Can it Benefit Your Business?

What does ‘employee engagement’ mean? 

Employee Engagement is the term that describes the emotional commitment that an employee feels towards the business they work. Not to be confused with employee happiness or satisfaction, employee engagement is a reciprocal approach requiring trust and communication between an organisation and their workforce. 

It aims to create staff who feel ‘bought in’ to the overarching aims of their organisation and motivated to work towards their success. This in turn enhances the employee’s sense of wellbeing leading to better performance and increased productivity. 

Employee engagement is not the same as employee happiness – whilst a happy workforce is of benefit to any organisation, happiness doesn’t necessarily equal productive working or belief in an organisation’s goals. It should also not be confused with employee satisfaction – which, by definition, sets the standard too low. Satisfied does not mean fulfilled or committed, it is too broad a term to capture the qualities of an engaged employee. 

As a member of the workforce, strong employee engagement is being energised about your role and fully understanding its purpose and potential as part of a larger whole. An engaged employee looks forward to work and goes above and beyond to help the organisation succeed. Willingness to express views and ideas is a mark of an engagement employee, reflecting that they feel a part of the decision-making process. 

As an employer, higher employee engagement is about positive working practices leading to improved outcomes. When employees are engaged these become cyclical, initiating, and reinforcing each other. Engaged employees provide loyalty, innovation, and advocacy for their organisation. 

Employee engagement is about drawing out a deeper commitment from our employees so fewer leave, sick absence reduces, accident rates decline, conflicts and grievances go down, productivity increases. 

The impact of employee engagement on your organisation. 

Engaged employees will use discretionary effort; going beyond the minimum required with additional work that is flexible, optional, and entirely down to the individual. Engaged employees will ‘go the extra mile’, the engineer that voluntarily stays late to review additional plans or the teacher that bakes cakes at the end of term. If your workforce is putting in extra effort, energy and focus then your organisation will reap the benefits of employee engagement. 

When employees have forged an emotional connection with their employer, employee retention will increase, absence for sickness will reduce and productivity will grow. Research shows that companies with a highly engaged workforce are 21% more profitable and 17% more productive than those with disengaged staff. Strong employee engagement is also reflected in financial performance, in a long-term study conducted over 11 years, businesses with thriving company culture grew 682% in revenue, while those that lacked good company culture grew only 166% in revenue. This chain, whereby employee engagement increases business performance is demonstrated in the graphic below. 

 Graphic showing how engaged employees work more productively and this results in greater profit.

How can you increase employee engagement? 

To generate an emotional connection with your organisation it is essential to have strong and authentic values, and that your actions as an organisation are consistent with these values. Commitments, from both employers and employees, must be understood and fulfilled. 

An employee engagement survey is an ideal way to measure how connected and committed staff feel to your business and what areas you need to improve. Acting upon this feedback not only allows you to make changes your employees would like to see but also demonstrates that their opinions are valued – an essential component of employee engagement. Whilst the survey will form the cornerstone of any strategy to improve employee engagement, there are other areas to consider. 

  •         Ensure staff have the training and knowledge they need – it might sound obvious, but employees work best when they’re trained for the job they’re undertaking. Industry-relevant mandatory training and the provision of beneficial CPD will create a workforce that feels recognised and valued improving both customer experience and employee job satisfaction.
  •         Remove barriers to working efficiently – simplifying processes, providing tools and resources, and identifying areas for cross-team collaboration will all help to create a feeling of cohesion and support within your organisation, all drivers of employee engagement. This could be investing in a HR management system to streamline leave requests and read documents or holding informal catch-ups for departments to communicate.
  •         Recognise and reward positive results AND progress – acknowledging discretionary effort and rewarding it ensures that staff feel valued. Rewards don’t need to be of monetary value, sometimes recognition might be preferred – again, these preferences could be examined further with an employee survey. By recognising when someone’s work reflects company values, or makes progress towards the company mission, you’ll help to reinforce the purpose and vision of your organisation and develop a culture that inspires discretionary effort.
  •         Offer opportunities for career development – with a path to career progression open before them, employees will be incentivised to work harder. Adopting additional responsibility, upskilling, and working more autonomously all improve employee experience, allowing staff to feel empowered to fulfil their potential.

 

Employee engagement is not a constant. It requires nurture and effort, and it can be affected by many factors. Regular employee surveys allow organisations to monitor employee engagement, respond to change and motivate their staff to achieve the best outcome for their employees and their business through a strong employee engagement strategy.