Bottom Line improvements from an Engaged Workforce

May 03, 2014

In our two previous blogs we debated the characteristics of an "engaged" workforce, how to achieve one and how to sustain it once you have it!

Here we address the direct benefits to your employees and your bottom line that you can expect from improving engagement. 

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are generally skeptical about HR fads and quick to harpoon unnecessary consulting. However, "engagement" is really a relatively newly minted term for defining how good leaders have managed their teams ever since the organization of people into work groups first began.

The objective being to create an environment in which employees want to work. One in which they have the right equipment, timely access to the information, training and leadership that they need and work in teams with like minded people in a positive culture. Create this and good things will result.

A number of major studies have correlated the level of employee "engagement" with direct organizational benefits. Gallup in its work has identified noticeable improvements with increasing levels of engagement in such areas as:

  • Customer Ratings
  • Profitability
  • Productivity
  • Turnover (For High-Turnover And Low-Turnover Organizations)
  • Safety Incidents
  • Shrinkage (Theft)
  • Absenteeism
  • Quality (Defects)

Notwithstanding our healthy inquisitiveness about the motivation for such surveys, the conclusions make sense and are worthy of further examination:

  1. Staff Retention - Finding the right people in a shrinking pool is going to get harder and a bigger investment. So it follows that keeping the right people once you have them, will reduce expense. The fewer of your people leaving the lower the cost of downtime, recruitment and training. Happy employees are less likely to quit.
  2. Work Place Policies and Practices - Traditionally developed by management to inform the way the business is governed. Why not have them developed by employees and refocused to improve the way the business operates? Many companies point to this change as a rich source of innovation as employees from the ground up identify smarter ways to do things be it with regard to their own terms of employment through to major business processes.
  3. Work Ethic - A happy employee fully engaged in his or her work is going to direct discretionary effort when required, toward business goals. This means working after quitting time to get that critical task completed, replying to emails after hours and putting in time on the odd weekend. If every employee had this attitude, think of the additional value created in your business.
  4. Culture - is not an accident, behaviours create culture. Cultures that contribute to business success have some common features; people share information freely, they creatively challenge one another, performance feedback is fast and positive and experimentation encouraged. Above all, work life is positive. An affirmative environment will add value in freeing bottlenecks and avoid disputes.
  5. Differentiation - While benchmarking is beneficial copying from others is not a sustainable business practice. Develop what's right for your team.  Take note of but don't replicate the HR or work practices of your competitors, find ways to allow your employees to develop policies and processes that suit them. Developing a unique place to work will attract the best people and lead to higher output and quality.

It's not rocket science to understand that providing your employees with what they want will make them happier. The leap of faith is in believing that this will result in a positive change to business results. At first glance it sounds like a project steeped in risk.

It need not be. Mitigate risk while realising the benefits by adopting a progressive process. Taking small steps first to assess the readiness of your team for change and the nature of the gains that you want to see. The traditional starting point is to survey your team to gain a sense of their current level of engagement against similar businesses and to put a stake in the ground from which to measure your future progress. This can be a frustrating way to begin and we believe that there is a faster route to securing gains at least initially.

Our approach is simple and practical with the objective to gain advantage from lower hanging fruit first. The starting point is to identify those areas where your business or team is fundamentally underperforming compared to your expectations. Second, we identify the actions that will improve attitude, activity and or reactions by involving employees. Finally, we measure outcomes to assess the level of change and most importantly communicate frequently about progress, reminding employees that these improvements are happening because of their input.

With some wins under the belt, further changes can be put in place with outcomes closely measured. Over time, surveys will enable much greater sophistication in highlighting opportunities not readily identifiable and areas where some actions are working and others are not. Each step targets a specific area for improvement while progressively shifting culture, confidence will grow inviting broader initiatives that will have more far reaching effects. 

 

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