According to HRZone, employee engagement is defined as:
The emotional attachment employees feel towards their place of work, job role, position within the company, colleagues, and culture— and the affect this attachment has on wellbeing and productivity.
Sounds like something employers should care about, right?
Why low engagement is dangerous
When a company suffers from poor levels of engagement, there are a lot of associated hard and soft costs:
- Higher turnover
- Poor communication
- Reduced productivity
- Increased workplace conflict
- Difficulty attracting and retaining talent
- Higher demands on HR and Management time and resources
As bad as all of this is, it can get even worse. Lack of employee engagement likely means lack of client engagement as well.
Engagement is contagious. Not only does it spread from employee to employee, it spreads from employee to customer. The more engaged your employees are, the higher the likelihood of having engaged, rather than just satisfied, customers. And research shows that when customers are engaged with a company, they spend higher percentages of their discretionary dollars with that organization.
Sounds pretty good, right? But how can you tell if your employees are engaged or not?
Look for the symptoms
If an organization displays the following characteristics, they are in a good position to have high levels of employee engagement.
Engaged leadership – The company actively seeks to understand its employees and acts with the expectations and preferences of the employees in mind. Employees can see that leaders are involved, invested, and excited.
Good communication – Employees have a clear understanding of why the company exists, the importance of their job and how it contributes to the organization's goals, objectives and mission. The organization is transparent, providing employees with clear and relevant information on a consistent basis.
Clear expectations – The business clearly defines each role and position, and provides the resources needed for each person to be successful. Employees are able to focus on organizational success rather than being preoccupied with personal survival.
Career development – Employees show an interest in professional development. Leadership provides a realistic path for advancement and encourages internal movement and growth.
Opportunity to contribute – Employees have clear opportunities to contribute ideas and initiatives that will improve the organization. Employers are open to new ideas and processes.
Feedback – Employees know what they are being evaluated on and how well they are performing. Company provides feedback and support on a regular basis.
Need to make some changes?
Increasing engagement can sound like a big, scary, and vague proposition. Here are a few specific ideas for how to get it done.
Ask your team for feedback. They probably know why employee engagement isn't as high as it could be and have ideas for how to make improvements. However, they need to feel comfortable with the confidentiality of their responses. Bringing in an outside consultant skilled at drilling down to the core issues could provide the right environment for constructive criticism.
Don’t get mad. Get smart. When you receive negative feedback, fight the temptation to be resentful and angry. Instead, focus on how these insights can turn into golden opportunities for change.
Be honest. It's okay to be disappointed with the results, but that doesn’t mean you can sugarcoat them. Your employees know what they said. And they talk. They will quickly lose confidence if they think their input is being downplayed, repackaged, or ignored.
Accept the challenge. Take what you’ve learned and start making some changes. Not following through is deadly. You won’t just make existing problems worse, you’ll also create new problems and ensure any future efforts won't be taken seriously.
Go all in. Engagement starts at the top. Make sure your leadership is onboard and that they’re leading by example. They must demonstrate the values and behaviors that are driving the shift. Employee engagement isn't a one-time project; it's part of the culture. Yes, it may take specific projects and efforts to improve it, but it requires ongoing, daily work to maintain it.
While employee engagement may seem to be elusive and intangible at times, the impact it has on virtually every aspect of your organization makes it something that can't be ignored.
There isn't a company out there that can't benefit from very consciously focusing on employee engagement. What’s stopping you?
Is your broker truly excited about organizational problem solving and helping you design an employee benefits strategy that helps you recruit top talent and makes your job easier? If not, give us a call. We live for this stuff!
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