Saturday Shoutout!!! Employee Engagement (Back to Basics)

Saturday Shoutout!! Employee Engagement

Issue 2 | Number 1 | 12 May 2012

In this first of 3 articles, I open the conversation with a quote from Bill Gates about employee engagement which is a good starting point – “The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the information about what’s going on so they can do a lot more than they’ve done in the past

Employee Engagement is…

I refer to the key critical questions that were raised in research conducted by Ken Blanchard which will set the scene.  Think back to your best job – a time when you felt totally engaged in the work you were doing. What was it about that job that made it so special?  What was happening in the work environment that caused you to feel that this was a place where you could grow and succeed?

In reality, employee engagement cannot be created overnight.  With events such as the GFC and now the impending economic crisis that looms in Europe, company leaders are looking for solutions to boost morale, increase productivity, and help gain competitive advantage. Employee Engagement is rapidly becoming the answer for many organisations, though many remain confused about the benefits of employee engagement, what it is, and how to foster it in their organisations.

As Derek Irvine argues the definitions of employee engagement seem endless and include increased line of sight, greater commitment, and willingness to give additional discretionary effort.  Furthermore, Mike Prokopeak sees that there are often conflicting definitions and measures of employee engagement, from psychological evaluations of employees’ beliefs about work to behavioural assessments of what they actually do on the job.  Adding to the confusion, many organisations often confuse employee satisfaction with engagement.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Mike Prokopeak poses a critical question for our leaders – why should leaders care if your employees are engaged?  The research on the bottom-line benefits of employee engagement is clear: Towers Perrin has found that companies with engaged employees boosted operating income by 19% compared with companies with the lowest percentage of engaged employees, which saw operating income fall 33%. What does that mean in real dollars? For S&P 500 companies, Watson Wyatt (WW) reports that a significant improvement in employee engagement increases revenue by $95 million.

The effects of engagement on employee productivity, retention, and recruitment are no less astonishing.  Watson Wyatt further found that companies with highly engaged employees experienced 26% higher employee productivity, lower turnover risk, greater ability to attract top talent, and 13% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years.

Engagement: It’s Complicated

At the same time the numbers tell a nuanced story of employees’ engagement at work, what constitutes engagement is becoming increasingly complex.  Mike Prokopeak shows the factors employers’ measures vary from job satisfaction, confidence in the future and co-worker attitude to confidence in leaders, workplace safety and quality of recognition programs.  It’s true that engagement is still driven by well-recognised workplace factors such as an employee’s relationships with co-workers and the boss, opportunities for growth and development and a sense of belonging. From the article by David Witt – What creates an engaging work environment?, the findings by Ken Blanchard show that an engaging work environment is comprised of many different factors … the top 3 – meaningful work, autonomy and feedback.

Back to Basics

From a leadership perspective, employee engagement drivers haven’t changed much over time.  While there are different models and definitions, in general employees are looking for a clearly defined role, clarity of purpose and opportunities to advance and grow.  They also want recognition, whether formal or informal, for the work they do. In good times, many employees are willing to forgive an organisation that neglects those basics, but when times are tight, such as through the recent recession and subsequent slow recovery, the story is different

The Journey Continues. 

It has been proven time and again that there is only one way to create engagement …and pure engagement is a leadership issue. As Aubrey Daniels states in his article ‘Five Ways to Test Employee Engagement’, employee engagement cannot be mandated; it must be done willingly.  Leadership must be focused on creating a workplace where every employee advances the organisational mission every day.  “When executives are more engaged, middle management is more engaged and the front line is more engaged.

So as a leader, what can you do to improve the experience of others?

Graphics: Rick Torbin

Next week’s blog – Leadership

If you find these updates useful, feel free to forward on to a work colleague or friend.

About the Author

To fulfil his professional and personal career aspirations, Tony Wiggins created ‘The HR Architect’ brand in 2009.  With a well-grounded focus and passion for HR, he thrives on working across his networks as a thought leader in ‘making a difference’ in the HR arena.

Tony Wiggins is the Founder and UX Editor of Saturday Shoutout!!! and The HR Architect Spends 5 Minutes with …. Tony utilises the blog ‘The HR Architect’ as a social media network and platform that empowers HR professionals to network, assist and support one another, spanning different countries, subcultures and niches.

Contact Tony at basketa@optusnet.com.au or @tonywiggin on Twitter.

3 Responses

  1. […] of three articles on employee engagement looking at the status of employee engagement.  The first article examined the basics of employee […]

  2. […] the first article, Employee Engagement: Back to Basics we started off with a quote from Bill Gates about employee engagement which was a good starting […]

  3. […] you miss the previous three parts to this article – you can find them at Engagement: Back to Basics and Employee Engageement: Death by 1000 Cups and Employee Engagement: Embrace, Empower and […]

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