Employee engagement is now recognised as an extremely valuable commodity for an organisation to harness. The government has recognised this by backing the Employee Engagement Task Force to promote engagement. The Engage for Success report revealed that companies with engagement scores in the top 25 per cent had twice the annual net profit. In addition, it illustrated how companies with high levels of employee engagement had a 40 per cent lower staff turnover rate than companies with lower levels of engagement.
These statistics are replicated in multiple research findings, and yet many organisations struggle to understand how to build engagement in a way that creates such tangible results.
Contrary to much press in this area, employee engagement isn’t just about making the workplace more pleasant or about using a myriad of rewards to increase motivation towards certain targets (although these things can help). It isn’t even about pay, although not having enough pay to survive or feeling that pay practice is unfair will definitely act as a demotivator.
Engagement is a complex ecosystem of factors that work together to capture something far more visceral in each employee. It’s about feeling a sense of worth and value in your role, feeling that your work has purpose beyond your daily task list, it’s about being able to develop yourself and be part of something bigger and more than just your own efforts.
Whilst there are multiple factors that help to engage employees in their work and with the company that they work for, engagement is most inextricably linked to clear leadership, excellent management competence, and emotional intelligence. Herein lies the challenge.
How can we measure engagement?
Understanding and building engagement is certainly not a precise science. There are certainly a number of factors that would indicate low organisational engagement, these would include things such as:
- high employee turnover;
- high absence rates;
- low productivity; and
- high incidents of employee disciplinary issues or grievances.
However, these indicators are much better substantiated with objective data and detailed feedback, such as can be gained through regular employee engagement surveys.
Employee engagement surveys allow staff a voice, providing them with an opportunity to offer open and honest feedback. By taking part in a survey, employees feel they have a platform to share their sentiments regarding a number of different factors, both negative and positive.
This form of research typically aims to shed light on cultural dynamics, the understanding and alignment to company goals and strategy, perception of communications, working conditions, team interaction, management competence and of the leadership behaviours.
Through departmental, geographical, and staff level analysis, organisations gain valuable insight on the good, the bad and the ugly of company life. Naturally this helps to create a clear agenda for management intervention and HR prioritisation, a well-developed ‘people-plan’.
Conducting your first employee engagement survey can feel a bit like opening the proverbial can of worms, however, with thoughtful design, careful communications and visible feedback where you can demonstrate a, “you said – we did” response, this helps to build transparency and trust, two essential ingredients for authentic employee engagement.
Undertaking a survey doesn’t necessarily mean a big change need to be made, however we suggest that management asks themselves a number of key questions: What is the purpose? What are the wider outcomes and objectives we want our teams to achieve? Have we been giving employees a voice? If the answer to the latter question is no, an engagement survey may be the perfect chance to rectify this.
Once the survey has been conducted, we recommend that the organisation analyses the results to establish the key issues and trends with engagement. It is beneficial to consider how you will provide usable information back to the managers and teams so they can gain insight and improve engagement. It is important not to fall into the trap of many other companies – struggling to make sense of their engagement surveys.