Employee engagement is a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of wellbeing. And it is seen today as somewhat of a ‘holy grail’ when it comes to managing people.
Vance (2006) said that “employees who are engaged in their work and committed to their organisations give companies crucial competitive advantages—including higher productivity and lower employee turnover.”
How do people professionals create the conditions for employees to feel engaged in their work
We suggest there are three key elements:
- Have a meaningful purpose
- Involve your people
- Get people playing to their strengths
In a little more detail:
1. Engage people. Your organisation needs to have a purpose in the world that is relevant to employees so they can feel that what they do makes a difference. That their work matters. A lot has been said about the importance of organisational meaning to the ‘millennial’ working generation but in truth, meaning matters to all generations. So our first tip is to make sure that your organisation’s vision and purpose is clear and meaningful, so that it is something your people can buy into and hold onto. So that the efforts they put in every day at work make sense to them. This needs to be communicated regularly to people so that they don’t lose sight of it.
2. Almost all research on engagement describes the importance of people’s involvement with their work – both from an organisational point of view and from a role point of view. So employees need to feel empowered to do their jobs in the way that works best for them and for the organisation. This gives people a sense of autonomy in, and personal control over, their work. It can be achieved by encouraging line managers to take a supportive, coaching approach with their teams, rather than being dictatorial. Employees also welcome a sense of control and involvement in the future direction of the organisation, so give them a ‘voice’ to feed into strategic and local decision-making.
3. Employees report that having their personal strengths acknowledged and being able to play to these every day in their work can be one of the most engaging aspects of their work. People find that being encouraged to master their areas of strength gives a great sense of motivation and connection with work. This leads to more frequent experiences of ‘flow’ where people become fully immersed and absorbed in their work and contribute the greatest value to the organisation. So stretching areas of strength is seen as one of the greatest untapped opportunities for driving up engagement in the workplace today.
People professionals should therefore look to their enabling people processes to see where these elements can be included, from recruitment and induction through to personal development, talent management and performance management. And where their processes are found wanting, it’s possible to make simple changes in order to make a big difference to employees’ likely ‘discretionary effort’ at work.
Management consultancy Deloitte’s latest report into global HR trends captures this well: “Look hard at your performance process and push toward simplification and strengths-based assessment and coaching. Train managers on how to give feedback. The days of traditional appraisals and forced ranking are coming to an end; performance management is now a tool for greater employee engagement.” Global Human Capital Trends 2015, Deloitte University Press, p56