There’s a lot of focus on engagement levels in business today. But it’s important to make a distinction between the different types of employee engagement that exist within a workplace. After all, engagement is not a one-dimensional concept. Businesses need to distinguish between employee’s engagement with their job and their engagement with the organisation as a whole. After all, it’s possible for employees to be highly engaged with their jobs, but not feel a connection to the overall organisation or vice versa.
When considering employee engagement, it’s worth making that all-important distinction between the two types; work engagement and organisational engagement. Only then can you put separate strategies in place to address the differing requirements. A multi-faceted approach is needed to fully address motivation and engagement in the workplace.
In this blog, we take a look at the key differences between work engagement and organisational engagement, along with a real-life example of what happens when you get the balance wrong. We then explore the strategies needed to address these distinct forms of engagement. Only then will you have a comprehensive approach to employee engagement that covers all angles.
Two types of employee engagement
Before you can work to build and improve engagement in the workplace, you must have an understanding of what these terms mean, and the different ways in which they can be used.
So, what is employee engagement? It can be split into two distinct elements:
- Work engagement
- Organisational engagement
In simple terms, the primary difference between these two ideas is the target of the motivation. A research paper from the Institute for Employment Studies highlights the need for a multi-faceted approach to engagement:
‘Employee engagement levels are consistently low despite the best efforts of many organisations. Viewing engagement as a single concept, rather than adopting a multi-faceted approach, may be contributing to this. Organisations should draw a distinction between the different levels of engagement to facilitate targeted, evidence-based interventions which enable them to meet their desired business outcomes more effectively.’
Megan Edwards, IES
Work engagement has been described as “the relationship of the employee with his or her work.” The main focus here is usually on the individual's role within the company; the part they play, and how motivated and committed they are to this role and its position within the business hierarchy.
A positive work engagement includes perceiving a deeper meaning in the work carried out, which extends beyond merely the next wage packet. The worker will assign value to their role, and this is likely to be tied to their own self-perception. In short, their role is a part of who they are, as opposed to a separate, disparate entity.
The way the individual feels about their job is crucial here; if they perceive it as valuable, important and making a real difference to the bigger picture, employee engagement is likely to be far higher. An engaged employee will care about the wider organisation, and work to progress the goals and targets of the whole.
Organisational engagement casts the net a little wider. Rather than focusing solely on the individual, it instead encompasses “the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.” Improving organisational engagement will have significant advantages for businesses; if everyone involved is equally committed to the common goal, productivity and motivation will increase.
Ensuring organisational engagement at every level is a real challenge for businesses. There is a risk that employees will see their roles as singular, rather than holistic; a job to be done, left and forgotten about when outside the workplace. Successful organisational engagement requires commitment and dedication to the cause, and the chance to see the bigger picture.
Overall, employee engagement requires both of these elements to thrive. Without strong work engagement, employees will fail to appreciate the value of their work on a wider scale, making successful employee engagement an impossible achievement.
Getting it wrong: a painful example
If organisational engagement seems like a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential, think again. Here’s a real-life example of what happens when a company disregards the importance of organisational engagement and the impact it has on its profits.
- An engineer visits a home to fix a broadband issue. He is helpful, capable and goes out of his way to do a great job. The home-owner is impressed by his service levels.
- The homeowner mentions the broadband service is due for renewal soon. The engineer smiles and gives a wink. He then reveals three methods to get the best deal possible; all of which involve aspects of leaving the broadband provider.
- The homeowner follows this advice and proceeds to secure a considerable discount on the broadband service.
So, what do we take away from this story? It’s certainly not unusual and many of us will have experienced similar scenarios.
Work engagement level:
Very High. The engineer prides himself on delivering an excellent service and leaving his customer happy.
Organisational engagement level:
Very Low. The engineer feels no commitment to the wider organisation and proceeds to undermine it in an effort to achieve customer satisfaction.
A happy customer, who is now generating less profits for the company. However, with organisational engagement in place, that customer would still be paying rack rate and be just as happy with the service levels.
Work engagement strategies
As we have discussed, the secret to achieving overall employee engagement is the harmonisation of these two crucial elements. Initiatives to improve employee engagement are the first step in the road; in the first instance, workers need a strong work engagement. There is a range of steps companies can take to help implement this, and these include:
#1 Allow flexibility
The importance of a strong work-life balance is something that has been well documented in recent research. Helping to facilitate this is a great first step towards earning brownie points with your team and can result in increased motivation and productivity for their role.
When you’re looking at working life employee attitudes and engagement, flexibility is a key element for success.
Contemplate allowing a little leeway in terms of where and when work is completed. Perhaps consider offering the option of compressed hours, the chance to work from home (even when remote working is no longer a necessity), or a more flexible schedule. These employee engagement initiatives are a great way to build a sense of trust; perfect for generating workplace engagement.
#2 Create a community
When considering methods for boosting workforce engagement, always look at how to create a sense of belonging in the workplace. If an individual feels they are a crucial member of a smaller team, chances are high that this attitude will then transcend their immediate environment and permeate the wider organisation.
Make sure everyone has a chance to have their voice heard, that their ideas are actioned where possible, and that team spirit is promoted and maintained. An employee app is a great way to launch this community concept off the ground. It will allow you to create social spaces for employees to meet, chat and share ideas and information, whether or not they are working from home or office-based.
#3 Offer rewards
At heart, humans are fairly simple souls, and we all enjoy receiving recognition for the triumphs we have achieved. It’s one of the key drivers of employee engagement. It can be easy for feedback to fall into a largely critical variety, with plenty of goals and targets for success. These are of course crucial for allowing employees to progress and develop, but should be balanced with reward and recognition whenever possible.
Employee engagement software will provide a quick route to implementing a reward and recognition programme. Built-in recognition modules allow employees to come together to celebrate success, understand company values and say thank you. Peer-to-peer recognition is as important as praise from the boss. It’s a simple but effective way to improve motivation and engagement in the workplace.
Organisational engagement strategies
Good organisational engagement can come primarily from ensuring secure work engagement throughout the business. In addition, it is imperative that there is a clear chain of communication, an established hierarchy, and a real sense of seeing things get done.
#1 Ensure clear communication
Whether via an employee app or internal communications system, it is crucial that staff know how they can have their voice heard. By setting out the channels of communication clearly from the start, employees will feel confident that there is a secure system of management, and that their concerns and ideas will be taken seriously.
It's important to ensure that no one falls out of the loop. You need to make sure you’re reaching everyone; whether they’re at home, at the office or on the move. When you’re looking at how to increase employee engagement in the workplace, it’s vital to make sure that everyone is receiving the same messages at the same time. Only then do you know that the bigger picture is being received and understood.
#2 Allow employees a voice
As you ascend the business hierarchy, it is easy for the voices of those further down to become muffled. This can result in frustration for workers; they may feel that no matter how hard they try, their efforts will never be rewarded. Investing in a quality employee engagement app is a great way to reach every member of every team, from top to bottom.
Feedback and pulse modules will help you keep a check on the health of the organisation and the mood of your employees. Collating feedback is one of the employee engagement best practices you should never ignore. Schedule a regular flow of feedback opportunities, asking about job roles, company policies and work conditions, to ensure you really know what’s going on at the coalface.
#3 Ask for ideas
If you’re struggling to get your employees onside, ask them to contribute ideas and innovations of their own. The simple act of considering the wider aims of the company as they come up with suggestions will help them to understand the bigger picture. It gets them thinking on a scale beyond the limitations of their job role. If employees see one of their ideas implemented, the buy-in will be that much more effective. This should be one of your main employee engagement objectives.
What’s the best way to ask for ideas? The old concept of a suggestion box may have fallen by the wayside but innovation is still alive and well in the workplace. An employee app will make life easy for you, with in-built innovation modules to post challenges and capture ideas. It will also track your idea management workflow to ensure those excellent ideas get put into place.
Building workplace engagement
In conclusion, it seems clear that employee engagement is a delicate balance of two aspects: work engagement, and organisational engagement. We have seen how these two concepts are required to work in unison to ensure success.
For individuals to perceive and envision themself as part of a greater whole - in this case, the wider organisation - employers must first ensure that there is security, motivation and satisfaction within their everyday work. With a few small changes, managers and leaders have the opportunity to transform the ethos and mood of their entire business, resulting in positive changes for all involved.