The Power of Employee Engagement

You’ve probably heard this old joke: a CEO is asked, “How many people work in your company?” He responds, “About half of them.” Not so funny when you look at engagement statistics and realise how much time and resources are potentially being wasted.

The statistics on workforce engagement are shocking according to the Gallup Management Journal’s semi–annual Employee Engagement Index:

  • 29% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs
  • 54% are not-engaged
  • 17% are actively disengaged

Engaged workers are more productive, contribute more to the bottom line and create loyal customers. They contribute to good working environments and stay with the organisation longer than the other 97% of disengaged workers.

The challenge for managers is developing a strategy to overcome disengaged workers and to maintain employees who feel connected to the organisation. Here are a few recommendations for managers to drive engagement with their employees.

Start by working with individuals to view their roles more broadly, rather than being task-oriented. Ask, “How does your work contribute to what the team produces? When you finish a project, what happens with the end product? Who gives you the input you need, and how can they help you create better deliverables? How do you contribute to making this a great place to work?” The objective is to open your employees’ view of their role in the organisation.

Measurement is another tool that is crucial to an employee’s feeling of success. Measurement should focus on outcomes, not tasks. Good measurement includes regular feedback, aligns with outcomes and matches the expectations for the role. Make a plan to check in with employees periodically, beyond the annual review. Let them know how they’re being measured and why those metrics are important. Acknowledge the work they have done and explain how it supports the rest of the organisation. Allow them to give feedback as well as offer insights into their role, team and projects. Determine the next time you will check in and reiterate the metrics you’ll discuss.

Another key to getting people engaged with the organisation is through building relationships. Employees’ who feel disconnected emotionally from their co-workers and supervisors do not feel committed to their work. They hang back and do the minimum because they don’t believe anyone cares. These employees “lower the bar” for themselves by doing the least amount of work necessary. As workers increasingly rely on each other to generate products and services, the problems and tensions that are fostered by actively disengaged workers can cause great damage to an organisation’s functioning. It’s important for managers to be the catalyst of creating a team culture and foster relationships with colleagues. Provide opportunities for the team to give feedback in a positive and safe environment. Find functions outside of work that allow employees and their families to get together. Encourage teammates to thank each other and recognise each other’s achievements.

Finally, the path toward engaging employees and keeping them engaged is ultimately determined by a manager’s willingness to understand each employee’s motivations. Ask them what they want out of their role, what motivates them and what they need in order to be effective in their roles. While it may take time for employees to feel comfortable sharing this information, the results of knowing how to best engage each one is worth the time and effort.

“Great organisations achieve sustainable growth and profits because they do what other organisations don’t: they maximise the innate, individual talents of their employees to connect with customers. They know that tapping the resources of humans is the only remaining area where significant improvements can—and do—lead to an unlimited source of competitive advantages.” Curt Coffman, Gabriel Gonzalez–Molina, in Follow this Path 2002.

Andrew McMeekin is the Managing Director at BI WORLDWIDE.

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