I really enjoy reading about employee engagement because for many firms its a mythical beast that lives in the dark shadows under the stairs. Not to be overly dramatic, but there are firms I’ve seen with just a handful of employees that can’t figure it out and I’ve seen organizations of several thousand employees who get it right. Most firms I suspect are somewhere in the middle. They want to get it right, but just aren’t sure how.
The essential question to ask is ‘why’ engage employees. Seems obvious to many, engaged employees are far more likely to work hard and be dedicated to the cause; be brand champions; be fair in their critique of the organization (if at all) and more to the point, produce high quality of work because they believe in what they are doing.
According to Scarlett Surveys, “Employee Engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization which profoundly influences their willingness to learn & perform at work” So, an engaged employee produces better results and is conceivably happier: so why don’t more organizations work harder to figure out how to provide environments that lead to stronger engagement?
It would seem that there is an enormous gap in terms of organizational understanding of who’s job it is to actively engage employees. David Zinger’s post on the subject is fascinating. In it he quotes research done by Phsychometics Canada concludes that in a survey of Canadian HR Professionals, when asked : Who is primarily responsible for engagement?
- 50% said managers
- 34.1% said senior leaders
- 15.9 said employees
David’s analysis touches on a number of important points, not the least of which is the idea that barely 16% felt that employees had any role in creating an engaging work place. So that said, what does it take to build an engaging workplace? My experience tells me that effort is the number one thing, and strong communication is a close number two. Make the effort to engage and understand your employees and the benefits can be instant and powerful.
I worked with a CEO who drove the organization hard, demanded results and would not accept less than 100% from anyone in his team. His team by the way was 7,000 people from across a vast geographic territory with a billion dollars in revenue. But people wanted to work for him; wanted to do well for him, because he wanted the same things as his team. How did he know what they wanted? He asked. He took the time to walk around the organization, to meet people to go to the furthers corners and talk to people. He encouraged his senior leaders to do the same. This was a very powerful strategy, and one that produced high yield.
I’ve done some employee surveys specifically around communications and the results, regardless of the enterprise, are always surprising and valuable. It can be immensely valuable to understand how, when, where and why employees want information but even more so, the ‘who’ can be an intense factor in terms of getting results. It is rarely the CEO who drives action and more likely the immediate supervisor, even on massive corporate change initiatives. It is clear that employees respond to those who they see and work with each day. So the best takeaway here is to 1) higher well, 2) empower managers to do their jobs and 3) provide them with the tools to do it – simple advice but it works.
Returning to Zinger’s point that all employees have a responsibility for engagement, its is true. Much like the adage, ‘everyone’s in sales’ its true that we all have a role in creating an environment that we want to spend the majority of our working hours at. Some other tips and good insights on how to engage employees from the NIST.