Employee engagement is a term any business owner will be intimately familiar with. It is a concept which dominates literature, fills business manuals, and is a staple feature in ‘how to make your business succeed’ type discussions.
While the notion of employee engagement is all around us, the exact details remain rather hazy. Just what are the major drivers of employee engagement, and how can you turn it from a theoretical concept into a fully-fledged notion, embedded practically in your organisation?
What Is employee engagement?
The all elusive employee engagement definition is one which remains tricky to pin down - and for good reason. From Khans discussion on the dimensions of employee engagement, to the seemingly endless employee engagement theory available on the market, there seem to be a myriad of different ideas, opinions and definitions, none of which may be useful for your business.
The exact notion is something which will differ from business to business; the trick is to work out how it looks in your own organisation. What is employee engagement to your business? How does it impact your workers, your ethos and your policies? By pinning down a clear, relevant definition, you can really embed the concept in your business, communicating it effectively to staff at all levels in a clear, concise way which is applicable to the nuances and oddities of your working environment. A generic definition is not enough here; for employee engagement to work, you need to consider it very specific terms. Only then can it be applied and expanded to the wider business.
Who are your employees?
Part of creating a personalised, tailored definition of employee engagement comes from taking a close look at those most relevant in the conversation: your employees. The employee engagement strategy you implement is going to affect this group the most, so it is crucial that you really take the time to get to grips with their demographic. What is the profile of your employees? Who are you trying to target? Is everyone primarily located in one office, or will you require strategies for keeping remote workers engaged? If the employees are spread throughout the country, or even across the globe, you will need to look at how to create a sense of belonging. Are your team more likely to respond to a central employee engagement app, or is a different approach required? By gaining a better, holistic view of your team, you will be able to compile an engagement strategy which works for you.
The 8 employee engagement drivers
What drives of employee engagement? Research into employee engagement trends suggests that the following there are the drivers of employee engagement:
- Learning and performance
- Rewards and benefits
- Strategic communication
- Employee voice
Each has their own part to play if you are looking to increase employee engagement, and should have their own place in your overall strategy.
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” The concept of wellness has become popular in business circles in recent years, but it is far more than merely a buzzword; focusing on wellness can have a seriously impressive influence on the engagement of your employees.
By focusing on wellness, you are taking the chance to see your employees holistically. Employees who are content and satisfied outside work will be more inclined to bring their ‘best selves’ to the business. Research shows that sickness taken due to mental health costs the UK economy over £8 billion per year, and so investing in wellness and employee wellbeing carries significant benefits for both business and worker. It is important to ensure that attention to wellness becomes more than merely lip service; it needs to be a core aspect of your working culture to help drive engagement.
#2 Learning and Performance
Offering chances for growth, development and education are top employee engagement drivers. Employees need to receive the appropriate training to allow them to do their job with confidence. Uncertainty and confusion will inevitably lead to reduced performance. By offering your staff relevant, up-to-date training, you are showing them that you see them as an investment. This, in turn, will boost their feeling of value to the company, giving them an incentive to remain motivated and engaged.
Innovation is also connected to learning and performance; when employees have a solid base to work from, they are more likely to take risks and voice opinions, come up with ideas and feel confident and secure. Qualifications drive employee engagement. Once again, they show that you are making a commitment to a long-term investment in a team member - a great way to demonstrate appreciation, and foster commitment.
#3 Rewards and Benefits
Rewards and benefits are key features of the employer/employee relationship and are a great way to help staff feel seen and valued. When given an incentive to work hard, employees are likely to find doing so more appealing. Research shows that those employees who are happy with their benefits and rewards offered by their workplace are up to a fifth more engaged than those who are less satisfied. A clearly defined system of rewards and benefits offers motivation and encouragement.
It is important to note that if such a system is implemented, then it needs to be clear, consistent, and transparent. A rewards system which is unreliable, unclear, or perceived to be unfair will have the opposite impact, fostering mistrust and a ‘why bother’ attitude in employees. It also needs to be relevant; think about what would improve the lives of your employees and use these features to build the system.
Collaborative working is a crucial factor when it comes to understanding what drives employee engagement. Remember that in most cases, the workers on the ground will have a better day-to-day knowledge and understanding of what their role involves, and the potential impact of any changes or adaptations. This can give them a unique insight into how best to implement changes that will work. Make sure that there is an accessible employee engagement platform which allows everyone to contribute.
Accountability is a major point to consider when it comes to collaboration; there is no sense in asking for feedback and assistance if the results are merely ignored. Employees need the tools, space, and trust to collaborate effectively; this will inspire them to remain engaged and continue to come up with new ideas and concepts. Having more of a stake in the business will boost loyalty and help them to feel that they are part of a complete team.
#5 Strategic communication
Strategic communication is one of the top employee engagement drivers. It allows workers at all levels to see the bigger picture, offering them greater motivation to work as part of the wider team; they can see the desired end goal, and feel part of the narrative of the business.
Strategic narrative relies primarily on strong communication and keeping employees in the loop. Any news or updates should be readily communicated and should be made public knowledge as soon as possible to help boost engagement. Employees need to feel that they are an active part of an evolving story, rather than come across out of date information months later.
For employee engagement to be facilitated throughout the organisation, it is imperative that those at the top show strong, dynamic and engaging leadership. The impact of leadership on employee engagement is well documented, and this can be a real-game when considering how to drive engagement.
Good managers have a solid understanding of their requirements and responsibilities, allowing them to lead teams with confidence, and implement a strong employee listening strategy which works with the members of their team to determine mutual goals and measurable targets. Consistency is key; workers need to be able to rely on managers and be fully aware of the consequences and implications of any action they decide to take.
A poor leader will never garner the respect of those in their care. In turn, these workers will become demotivated and frustrated, both of which will have a negative impact on their overall work engagement. Strong leaders create strong teams - both key ingredients in the recipe of effective engagement.
#7 Employee Voice
For employees to feel engaged, they need a voice. Research suggests that employees who feel empowered are more likely to be engaged. By ensuring that workers have access to an employee engagement app, you are keeping them up to date with changes and developments, and allowing them to use their voice to make changes and improvements.
For many business leaders, it may have been several years since you worked ‘on the floor,’ completing the same role as many of your team members. This can result in a disconnect; many of your amazing employee engagement ideas could fall flat, or be unworkable in practice. This in turn can result in disengagement; the workers feel they have no voice, and they are not being listened to, so become disillusioned and unmotivated. By allowing your employees to speak, you can help to get the best from them, and make practical, helpful changes which have the potential to revolutionise your business for the better.
For many workers, not feeling engaged at work can come from a sense of powerlessness. Recognition is a simple change you can make, which can have a real impact on the engagement of your employees. A simple acknowledgement can make a significant difference to the mood, attitude, and motivation of your staff, helping them feel valued and appreciated in their role.
Peer-to-peer recognition can be simple and effective; remember to say thank you for a job well done, or to send an email acknowledging extra effort. Make sure that there is recognition for the little things; it can be easy to focus solely on areas for improvement, and this can result in frustration from staff doing their best. Take the time to voice your appreciation when things go well, and always ensure that there are chances for great employees to grow, train and develop - in this, you are accepting that they have reached a certain skill set, and implementing faith and trust in them to go further. This sort of investment and recognition inspires confidence; a great ingredient when it comes to engaged employees.
A key aspect of employee engagement is having a system in place which allows you to measure engagement levels. This is crucial in understanding which concepts and ideas are working, and where changes need to be made or tweaked. Measuring progress also allows you to prove to employees that you are actively seeking to improve, and are responding in a dynamic, flexible way.
A team with disengaged workers will be fractured, less than productive, and result in every member performing to less than their full potential - bad news for business. Engaged employees are a key business asset. At the core, the more engaged the team member, the more they will see themselves as a smaller part of a wider, collective whole. This is at the centre of engagement; only by working as one team, towards a common goal, can a business really thrive and evolve.