The Importance of Employee Engagement
Employees who feel connected to their organization work harder, stay longer and motivate others to do the same.
Employee engagement affects just about every important aspect of an organization, including profitability, revenue, customer experience, employee turnover and more.
It is defined as the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward the work they do, their teams and their organization.
Employee engagement does not mean:
- Employee happiness. Someone might be happy at work, but that does not necessarily mean that they are working hard or productively on behalf of the organization. Employee happiness says nothing about how invested employees are in the organization, nor how hard they are working on behalf of and towards the organization’s mission. Happiness is a short-term, rapidly changing measurement. For example, an employee may feel temporary happiness from a salary increase and soon thereafter, sink back into disengagement.
- Employee satisfaction. Employee satisfaction can only be measured at surface level. Many companies have “employee satisfaction” surveys, but all too often the bar for those surveys is set too low. On the other hand, an employee who is satisfied may not be engaged. A satisfied employee might show up for his/her daily 9-to-5 routine without complaint, but that same “satisfied” employee might not go the extra mile on their own. Satisfied employees will not take steps to go above and beyond. They usually stick around, but they are not driven to go the extra mile. They will most probably take the head-hunter’s call luring them away with a 10% increase in salary. Satisfied isn’t enough!
- Employee wellbeing. Wellbeing evaluates many areas of an employee’s life, such as how well they cope with stress or if they’re fulfilling their potential. Providing resources to increase employee wellbeing can increase employee engagement, however, employee engagement focuses on an employee’s connection with their company, not on their own wellbeing.
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their organization. They don’t work just for a pay cheque, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of and towards the organization’s goals.
When employees care, when they are engaged, they use discretionary effort. This means that they will go the extra mile, work overtime without being asked, resolve issues even when ‘it’s not within their job description’ per se.
While disengaged employees have a negative opinion of their place of work, are disconnected from the mission, goals and future of the organization. They lack commitment to their position and responsibilities.
On the other end of the spectrum, when employees feel connected to their teams, love their jobs and have positive feelings about the organization, they’re going to want to stay and put in extra effort to help the organization succeed. These employees become “brand advocates” and they encourage other employees around them to do their best.
Employee engagement leads to:
- Increased employee productivity – engaged employees are more likely to work diligently and expend discretionary effort in their jobs.
- Higher employee retention – engaged employees do not have a reason to look elsewhere for work.
- Increased customer satisfaction – engaged employees care deeply about their jobs, and thus, customers.
- Lower absenteeism – when employees are committed to the organization’s mission, they are going to show up for work.
- Better employee health – having healthier employees positively impacts the organization’s bottom line.
- Decreased workplace injury – engaged employees are more aware of their surroundings and can focus on the tasks at hand.
Therefore, engaged employees lead to:
- higher service, quality and productivity, which leads to…
- higher customer satisfaction, which leads to…
- increased sales (repeat business and referrals), which leads to…
- higher levels of profit, which leads to…
- higher shareholder returns (i.e., stock price).
Who drives employee engagement?
Every person in an organization impacts employee engagement, as this will relate to the quality of relationships they build, their approach to teamwork and general attitudes they bring to the workplace.
Leadership, especially inspiring leadership and team relationships, are extremely important for engagement. This is because employees want to work for leaders and teams that put people first, that value employee contributions and show integrity.
The leaders of an organization are the employee engagement advocates, they influence the culture in an organization, through setting the tone, setting the vision and communicating it throughout the organization.
Employees want to work for organizations that have a strategy built for success. They want to believe that they can contribute to that success in their role. Individuals want to successfully contribute to winning teams and organizations.
The support provided to employees, or the lack thereof, will impact employee engagement. Employees cannot be expected to be engaged if:
- They are not employed in the correct roles or do not know what is expected of them;
- They do not understand the organizational mission and purpose and how they can each contribute towards it;
- They do not have the requisite tools and processes in place to thrive in their roles;
- They are not afforded the opportunity to perform at their best;
- They are not adequately developed professionally and personally;
- They do not have good relationships with their managers;
- They do not receive adequate support;
- They do not receive continuous feedback on performance;
- They do not receive recognition for team and individual performance.
However, employee engagement is not a one-way stream, employees also need to play their part in the overall organizational employee engagement process. Employees need to:
- Provide honest, candid and actionable feedback about what is and isn’t working;
- Brainstorm new and creative solutions that address their concerns;
- Take ownership of their performance and development, take responsibility and empower themselves by setting measurable, realistic goals and staying focused on and heading in the right direction towards their attainment;
- Engage in meaningful relationships with their teams and managers;
- Be realistic in their expectations of their workplace, not expecting a stress free workplace;
- Have a positive attitude and approach towards workplace hurdles and challenges;
- Focus on their areas of strength to hone in on what they naturally do well and apply those strengths in their role every day. Strengths can accelerate the development of good work habits and lead to higher engagement. They can also serve as a buffer against stress and negative emotions.
While employee engagement does not happen overnight, nor does it occur at the click of a button, the effort that an organization puts in place for employee engagement is well worth it and will reap tangible benefits for the organization.
There is a case to be made for having highly engaged employees in an organization.
Employee engagement is a win-win for both employees and organizations at large and is a worthwhile investment.