Employees are your most important resource as, without them, there’s no one to get your product or service to market. Building a healthy and positive working environment can have a huge impact on the success of your business. It’s what we call “Employee Engagement”. The term was first formally defined in 1990 by William Khan as “the harnessing of organisation members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances.” Until this point there was much talk of employee motivation, but the idea of employee engagement goes a step further and is very much part of the HR vocabulary these days.
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, studies have shown a distinct correlation between engagement and performance: increased productivity, increased profit, employee retention, customer satisfaction and less sickness and absenteeism are all some of the noted benefits. People work better when they are committed towards the cause. Creating a high performance workplace can be a complex issue, but there are a few simple rules to follow to set you on the right path.
You need to communicate your organisation’s values and ensure managers and team leaders are fully versed in these values. What you say in these should be reflected in your attitude and your day to day activity. Research by the CIPD shows that less than a fifth of managers are aware of their organisation’s values and only a third of employers give adequate training to new managers. Not addressing this issue can lead to a lack of trust between employees and management.
Your employees need to feel there is a common purpose which can be achieved through open and transparent communication. Listen to their thoughts and ideas, respect your staff and treat them as individuals. Let your actions and attitudes show that you understand that your people can, and do, contribute to the development of your business.
You need to ensure not only effective internal communications for your organisation as a whole, but also for clarification of expectations of individual employees. It’s important to have a structure in place to allow for two-way feedback, either through regular appraisals or through specific channels. An employee feedback survey will help you understand the issues that are most important to your staff and can give you a good idea of how employees feel they are being treated and how relationships between managers and staff are conducted. The idea is to ask employees questions about how they feel about their job, their line manager, internal communication and if there are any issues that the employee feels needs resolving.
There are a few things you can do to help forge a committed workforce that are prepared to go the extra mile for your business. Acknowledge their hard work and successes, either with financial or non-financial rewards. For example, career progression and hold regular team meetings to ensure that everyone is aware of what is happening at all levels of the business. Activities outside of the office can also help give staff an extra sense of purpose, such as team building events or charity or community work.
Not striving for at least some engagement from your employees can have serious consequences; if your staff can’t engage in your business, there’s a good chance they’ll go and find one in which they can. With demographic pressures escalating the war for talent and freedom of choice eroding traditional employee loyalty, it’s as important as ever to “sell” your business to your existing employees as well as those you are looking to bring in. It’s an ongoing process that needs continuous tweaking and improving to have the desired effect.
It may be an obvious statement, but at the end of the day, by definition if your employees aren’t engaged they must be disengaged – and ask yourself, what impact will that have on your business?