Every organization has a conscious and continuous effort to build a culture of engagement because engaged employees lower the risk of turnover, boost customer satisfaction, and increase its overall chance of success. In identifying the three best measures of a company’s health, business consultant and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, cited employee engagement first, with customer satisfaction and free cash flow coming in second and third, respectively.
Engagement doesn’t mean happiness because someone may be happy at work and not be productive. Also, engagement doesn’t mean satisfaction which is good enough to retain employees but not enough to ensure productivity. A satisfied employee may not be engaged but an engaged employee is one who is satisfied, deeply involved and invested in their work.
Employee engagement is best defined by Kevin Kruse, author of Employee Engagement 2.0, as the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals. It is the emotional state where an employee feels passionate, energetic, and committed toward their work. Engaged employees actually care about their work; they aren’t doing it because they have to or just for the paycheck, or even just to get a promotion.
As far back as 1990, Professor William Kahn, a professor of organizational behavior at Boston University’s School of Business, published groundbreaking research in the prestigious Academy of Management Journal. He held in-depth interviews with employees and he found that for an employee to feel engaged, they had to:
- Feel that their work was meaningful and made a difference
- Feel valued, trusted and respected
- Feel secure and self-confident
In essence, the more an employee feels a sense of belonging, the more they are likely to be engaged.
It’s one thing to bring people on board but how do you keep them engaged? You can create a culture of organizational engagement by doing the following;
Be Transparent: Communicate Consistently
One of the key ways to effective leadership is cultivating an environment of transparency. Employees are engaged when they feel comfortable telling the truth and trust the manager’s word. Managers should work in a non-prescriptive manner, build rapport with employees, listen with empathy, ask powerful questions and evaluate options to create the desired impact. With these, employees will reciprocate their sincerity with dedication, respect, and loyalty that isn’t forced or coerced but earned.
Achievement of goals is the determinant of success for every organization. Set attainable short-term goals and clearly define the long term goals and vision of the organization to your employees. Your performance management system should be designed by linking job objectives to organizational objectives. You should set weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals so employees have something to work toward always and these goals should be reviewed with employees periodically. To engage employees, you need to involve them in reaching business goals. This makes employees see how their work directly affects the business as a whole and realize the value their input has on the organization.
Encourage Employee Development
Besides an attractive salary and other conditions of work, employees choose to work in an organization that focuses on their career development. Training and Development can serve as additional devices for enhancing employee engagement because employees want to develop their skills and continue challenging themselves. Through specially designed skill development trainings, you help new and current employees acquire the knowledge and skills they need to perform their jobs. You can also encourage employee development by adding new duties to an employee’s position to allow room for growth in the position, a job rotation program so employees do different tasks every so often or offer education assistance. It shows employees that you value their career growth, and it also allows you to add new skills to your business.
Recognize and Appreciate Employees
Employees need to feel appreciated and can quickly become disengaged if they feel invisible. Positive feedback, recognition, and appreciation for a job well done can be very effective in creating an engaged environment. You should never fail to recognize an excellent work ethic, exceptional performance, or outstanding result by simply saying thank you, praising the employee to others or buying lunch. When gratitude is expressed immediately instead of during quarterly review, it boosts employees’ morale and improves their potential at success.
With the above strategies, it is pertinent to note that employee engagement starts from the top, and the level of engagement of managers have a direct impact on that their employees. In 2017, a research was conducted by Dr. Tracy Maylett, Chief Executive Officer and President of Decision Wise, to unlock the power of employee engagement. The study examined 215 workgroups from various companies to check if the level of engagement of a manager has a direct impact on the level of engagement of workers. The findings of the study revealed that;
- Engaged managers are more likely to have engaged employees
- Engaged managers are more likely to create an environment that will make employees engaged
- 36% of employees of fully engaged managers are also fully engaged
If you want an engaged culture, you have to be an engaged leader and keep finding ways to imbibe that culture because engaged employees help your organization achieve its objectives, execute its strategy and generate important business results.