Engagement

March 18, 2014

There is much discussion on the topic of engagement these days. Not just in HR circles but in Board rooms too. So what's the story; the latest HR fad or something much more important? Here's the background.

Several studies indicate that the happier an employee, the more productive they are and harnessing this across the organization will result in superior financial performance. In other words people doing what they like to do, which by extension is usually what they are good at, will lead to discretionary effort being directed toward company objectives.

Some consultants will suggest that happiness or engagement should be measured often and by degree. Unless you are a large organization seeking a snap shot of employee sentiment we are uncertain how it helps to know whether your employees are more engaged today than they were yesterday. While we believe that an engaged workforce will add value and that this is not just an opportunity for large companies, we think more fundamentally it is important to know whether your workforce is engaged or not!

".... But successful leaders and managers always know what's going on within their teams; they know what topics are discussed around the water cooler, they sense the atmosphere at the staff party and they keep a finger on the pulse and an ear to the ground" we hear you say "How can we improve on that?"

At the heart of an "engaged" workforce lies a company's culture; the way in which an organization attracts employees and what it does to keep their attention once on board. Successful cultures don't happen by accident and tend to be built around three things:

  1. Alignment of the achievement of company goals and objectives with the values and practices of the company and the recruitment and retention of employees who fit that culture
  2. Positivity is a cornerstone. A place where success is celebrated, good news communicated quickly and performance feedback is fast, constant and constructive
  3. Improvement is a permanent goal, individualism is encouraged and success rewarded

The dictionary defines engagement as busy or occupied. In this context it means that employees need to be invested in their work. They need to be doing what they like to do, working with similarly minded people in an environment that suits. In a word, happy.

Examples of successes from highly engaged workforces include; Google which has 0% turnover and therefore saves significantly on down time and we are all familiar with their financial success. A client of ours receives tens of thousands of unsolicited resumes annually and has minimal recruitment costs. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that engaged workforces have absenteeism rates ten times lower than their competitors, employees that are 60% more likely to help their colleagues and are 50% more likely to expend additional discretionary effort to get things done. Real added value.

This doesn't mean that engagement is going to produce a population of employees with a work ethic like investment bankers. Most employees have their primary interests outside of work in family, a charity, a sports team or a hobby. Create an environment that enables employees to follow their passion and engagement at work will follow.

A satisfied workforce with supporting incentives will be more  productive than one that is not. Take time to profile your workforce and how you can meet their needs without breaking the bank, how you can screen for better fit, how you can provide the right incentives that together will build a supportive culture.

We are going to be focusing on developing a more productive workforce through the three areas outlined above in our next several E-news.

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