5 steps to building a highly engaged, productive workforce

The UK has a poor record of engaging employees at work. Numerous surveys from different organisations show that only around one-third of UK workers report being engaged or highly engaged, which puts it in ninth place for engagement levels amongst the world’s 12 largest economies as ranked by GDP (Kenexa 2009).

There are numerous theories and models of employee engagement, many of which are overcomplicated, inaccessible and highly academic in nature. By improving employee engagement at work, studies have shown that organisations can increase profitability, productivity and customer loyalty. It has also been found to lower absenteeism and turnover.  All factors that are shown to relate directly to the companies’ overall success.

Through our research and practical experience, we have identified 5 major factors contributing to high levels of engagement and positive workplace energy, which are outlined in brief below. We have also identified steps employers can take to boost engagement in each of these areas, together with the impact of the absence of each factor on the way employees feel about their work.

>>See how Strengthscope® is helping companies build a highly engaged workforce

1. Opportunity to Express Oneself Fully

Employees whose values, personal strengths, opinions and ideas can be fully expressed whilst they are carrying out their job are more likely to exert extra effort, achieve in the upper range of their potential and remain with the organisation.

Actions employers can take:

  • Increasing self awareness and helping employees identify and optimise their natural strengths and talents
  • Developing skills, experience and knowledge in areas of natural strength
  • Providing people with challenging ‘stretch assignments’ to optimise their strengths and full potential
  • Accepting and celebrating diversity and uniqueness; encouraging different ways of thinking and conducting work (within appropriate boundaries)
  • Encouraging flexible work practices (including flexible work patterns) that take account of individual differences

How people feel when it’s not there: Faceless

2. Appreciation

Employees who are known and appreciated by their manager, co-workers and key stakeholders are more likely to feel engaged in their jobs and positive about the organisation. Research suggests that the ratio of positive to negative/critical statements over time is around 3-1 for any relationship to flourish and for people to be at their best.

Actions employers can take:

  • Ensuring an appreciative, positive work environment where people feel their contribution is valued and contributes to the bigger picture
  • Ensuring fair and transparent performance-related financial rewards
  • Putting in place simple recognition schemes that are low or no cost to the organisation
  • Tolerating reasonable mistakes, ensuring they don’t get blown out of proportion and are used as valuable learning experiences

How people feel when it’s not there: Worthless

3. Meaningful Contribution

Employees who can see that their work is making a meaningful contribution to the vision and goals of the organisation are more likely to be committed and engaged.

Actions employers can take:

  • Ensuring a clear cascade of vision and goals to ensure clarity and understanding…communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Aligning individual and team goals with broader organisational goals so employees have a clear line of sight between their contribution and the company’s goals
  • Improving the broader society in which the organisation operates through corporate social responsibility and community-based initiatives
  • Helping employees remove unnecessary rules and ‘red tape’ and streamline processes to free them up to do their best work

How people feel when it’s not there: Pointless

4. Performance Feedback

Employees who get constructive and regular feedback from valued co-workers and other stakeholders are more likely to feel engaged and committed to the organisation.

Actions employers can take:

  • Providing regular, transparent and fair performance feedback through an engaging performance dialogue process
  • Introducing a 360/multi-rater feedback process (questionnaire or interview-based) to provide employees with feedback from co-workers
  • Upskilling managers to ensure they provide high quality performance coaching
  • Implementing peer coaching circles where peers can openly share learning and provide each other with feedback
  • Ensuring open and honest performance feedback in areas of shortfall to enable the person to improve or move on to a role more suited to their strengths and skills

How people feel when it’s not there: Clueless

5. Sense of Connection and Social Support

Having a strong social support system at work is of vital importance, even to those who have a high level of independence and are more introverted. By nature, people are social and rely on strong workplace social support systems for psychological and practical support, growth and friendship.

Actions employers can take:

  • Ensuring dedicated spaces at work for informal meetups, gatherings, relaxation activities and other social activity
  • Encouraging social networks and clubs to provide employees with opportunities to network and socialise outside working hours
  • Promoting peer coaching, networking and mentoring programmes, both formal and informal
  • Using the latest collaboration and social network technologies like Yammer to promote online interaction
  • Building time for fun, relaxation and relationship-building into the normal working day; ensuring it’s not all about hard work with no fun and chill out time

How people feel when it’s not there: Companionless

Research over the past two decades into what we call the Strengths-Service-Profit Chain™ shows a direct and powerful link between focusing on building a highly engaged, strengths-based work culture and critical business drivers and results, including improved customer experience and loyalty and increased financial performance and longer-term shareholder return. In fact, improvements in profitability resulting from higher levels of engagement have been found to be as high as 30% (Corporate Leadership Council, 2003). Can any HR or top management team afford to overlook such compelling value drivers in today’s hyper-competitive and high-velocity markets?

For more information about the Strengths-Service-Profit/Value Chain™, contact us

Corporate Leadership Council (2003). Linking Employee Satisfaction with Productivity, Performance, and Customer Satisfaction. Corporate Executive Board Research Paper.

Kenexa (2009). Beyond Engagement: The Definitive Guide to Employee Surveys and Organizational Performance. Published White Paper.