How to Drive Employee Engagement

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Author: Tashania Morris

“There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

– Jack Welch

Emily has been an accountant for 2 years.  She currently works at a small accounting firm with hopes of climbing the corporate ladder.  During her first year, she was a rock star, however, once she realized that there was little room for growth a lot has changed. She is not as enthusiastic as she used to be, she is constantly surfing the internet and updating her social media status while at work.  She has developed a reputation for being absent.  Compared to her performance last year, her productivity has decreased tremendously, however, as long as she performs at the same level of her team, there is nothing to worry about.  Her manager is not surprised or alarmed by her behavior, it is generally expected.  She has been with the company for over 8 years and has seen a lot of people come and go.  As long as Emily continues to perform at the same level as her fellow coworkers, there will be no problems.  It is evident that Emily is no longer engaged and her manager has no clue what needs to be done.  Even worse, her entire team is actively disengaged and she doesn’t even know.  This team is not alone, according to the Gallup poll, [1]32% of employees are engaged, 50.8% are not engaged and 17.2% are actively disengaged.  The workers were placed into three different categories, based on their level of engagement.  They were characterized as:

Engaged Workers  Work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company.  They drive innovation and move the organization forward.
Not- Engaged Employees are essentially “checked out”.  They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time – – but not energy or passion – – into their work.
Actively Disengaged Employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness.  Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

http://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/162953/tackle-employees-stagnating-engagement.aspx

How is employee engagement affecting your bottom-line?

Your employee engagement has a direct impact on your company’s bottom line.  The Gallup Poll states that “[2]disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year”.  Engagement concerns need to be addressed as soon as they are noticed.  They should not be pushed to the side silently and forgotten about.  While Emily’s manager is not sure what is going on, the longer she waits to address the issue, the more money the company loses in productivity.  Actively disengaged workers tend to miss work a lot, or they end up leaving the company for better opportunities.  This results in a problem of absenteeism and/or high turnover, both of which are costly for the company.  Actively disengaged workers, if not dealt with swiftly, can turn actively engaged workers into actively disengaged workers with their negativity.  These actively disengaged workers can be known as the “Negative Nancy” and can easily affect team morale.

How to Drive Employee Engagement?

With only 32% of workers being engaged, it is evident that most companies have an engagement problem that they are struggling to address.  Emily lost interest when she realized that there was little room for advancement, and employees were not given an incentive for being overachievers. She felt that her hard work wasn’t paying off and resorted to doing the bare minimum even though she was capable of accomplishing more.  Organizations have to become strategic in the ways that they drive engagement.  Not all managers and supervisors are great at being leaders, it is often said that people don’t leave companies, they leave their managers.  It takes a leader and not a manager to create and maintain an engaged workforce.  Listed below are some recommendations on how to drive employee engagement:

  • Conduct an assessment – In order to get an accurate take on the situation, an assessment must be done. This will give a clear indication of what is currently broken and what isn’t.
  • Teach managers and supervisors how to lead – Not all managers are great leaders, and it takes a leader to maintain an engaged workforce. Managers can either inspire a team to do great work or undermine and weaken the team dynamics.
  • Provide employees with tools and resources – By providing employees with the tools and resources they need, they will feel empowered to get the job done. Too often employees are expected to produce without the proper training, tools, and resources.
  • Get to know your employees & motivate them – It is extremely important to understand what motivates your employees to work. People are either motivated by internal or external factors.
  • Create advancement and job enrichment opportunities – Teaching employees new skills and competencies send the message that the company cares about their careers by equipping them with new skills and abilities.
  • Recognition & Incentives – This proves that you appreciate and value the hard work your employees are doing. If people don’t feel valued, they won’t stay with the company.
  • Encourage open and honest conversations – Setting clear expectations and encouraging employees to voice their opinions without fear of retaliation.
  • Measure engagement by implementing surveys and feedbacks – Engagement must be tied to the company’s business strategy. The only way to know if something is working is to measure it.  Don’t forget, if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.

Solving the Engagement Problem

Emily’s manager should have conducted an assessment of the team to get a better understanding of what was lacking.  Why are employees excelling during their first year on the job, while their productivity decreases during the 2nd year? Is there something that can be done to maintain engagement throughout the employee’s tenure?  These are some questions Emily’s manager should have asked herself.

Conducting an assessment is the first step in gathering vital information about the employee engagement concerns within the organization.  Getting feedback from employees is crucial.  This can be done by using surveys, questionnaires, and having face to face conversations.  Exit interviews are a great way to get feedback about what the company could have done better to retain employees.  Once the data has been gathered, it is essential to look at trends and patterns.  Next, you will need to create a plan of action and decide how it will be implemented.   Metrics must be put in place to measure the plan and its outcomes.  Keeping your organization engaged is not a one-time event, this should be done on a continuous basis.  Stephen Covey once said, “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers”.

Tashania Morris, MSHRM, SHRM-CP, CDF, is an intern for IOD who loves all things HR. Her personal mission is to empower, educate and promote change. She can be reached at info@instituteod.com.  For more information about our certification programs and professional development courses, please visit our website at www.instituteod.com.

The Institute of Organization Development (IOD) offers an online Talent Management Certification Program (TMCP) for those interested in advancing their careers in the field of Talent Management. Participants learn how to help their organizations implement an aligned talent management strategy and receive the guidelines, tools, and resources needed to be successful.

The Talent Management Certification Program (TMCP) is offered online over 8 months, 3 hours per month to maximize your development as a Talent Management Strategist. Our expert faculty provides interactive discussions, activities, and examples that enrich your learning experience.  For more information about our certification programs and professional development workshops, visit our website www.instituteod.com or email us at info@instituteod.com.

[1] http://news.gallup.com/poll/188144/employee-engagement-stagnant-2015.aspx

[2] http://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/162953/tackle-employees-stagnating-engagement.aspx

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