Why should we care about employee engagement?
First, what is employee engagement?
“Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give of their best each day, committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.”[i]
“Employee engagement, simply put, is the extent to which an employee’s personal goals and interests align with the vision and goals of the company at which they are employed.”[ii]
Okay, why do we care?
The above two quotations suitably describe what employee engagement is, but why do we care? We care not only because we’re good people and want those around us and for those whose lives we affect to be healthy and happy, but because employee engagement has a direct effect on our organization’s bottom line.
Organizations with happy and engaged employees provide better customer service, have lower attrition rates, fewer lost time injuries and accidents, less inventory shrinkage (internal theft, clerical errors, fraud), lower absenteeism, higher quality, and increased productivity. In some industries such as pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, healthcare, aviation/transportation, etc., they translate to increased patient and/or consumer safety.
While it can be a bit tricky to measure the financial impact of some of these areas (such as productivity), and easy to measure the financial impact of others (inventory shrinkage), failures in many of these areas can, and at some point probably will, result in not only material financial losses resulting from civil liability, criminal cases, consent decrees, government fines, etc., but also severe injury and/or loss of life.
If you’re with me so far, it’s easy to see how employee engagement can have a significant impact on an organization’s profitability, which is why many organizations are dedicating a lot of time and money to improving morale and increasing employee engagement.
My advice to any CEO who wants to formalize and implement an engagement program is that he or she needs to first get help. Boards and CEOs often view the organization through the lens of the executive leadership team, who view the organization through their management teams, and so on. This top-down view of the organization is often not a reflection of how employees really think and feel, and messages get lost, or not delivered at all, from the bottom-up. Engage someone who specializes in employee engagement, and get your finger on the pulse; you cannot address the issues if you don’t know what they are.
One of the most important aspects of formalizing an employee engagement program is that you must do it with sincerity. You must be prepared to listen to the results of surveys and focus groups and to take action with the sincere intention of addressing the issues, even when (and especially if) you cannot immediately resolve them. When you give people the opportunity to be heard and encourage them to spend time providing their honest and objective feedback, it is critical that you listen, act, follow up, and constantly communicate, or you can end up worse off than if you didn’t do anything at all. Giving people hope for positive change and then not doing anything can be disastrous.
Employee engagement is not a one-time initiative; it needs to become strongly embedded in your organizational culture in order to realize its true benefits.
What do you think? What have you seen work, and what hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you.
[i] Macleod, D. What is Employee Engagement? Retrieved from https://engageforsuccess.org/what-is-employee-engagement
[ii] Rosborough, B. What Is Employee Engagement? Why Is It Important? Retrieved from https://www.snacknation.com/blog/what-is-employee-engagement/
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