Employee Relations

Employee Engagement Strategies

Jennifer Wheatley, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

What Does it Mean to Have Engaged Employees? 

You have heard this term “employee engagement,” but have you really thought about what it means? Is it just the latest and greatest thing, or is there really something to this whole concept of having engaged employees? Some may be surprised to learn that employee engagement does not refer to employee happiness or job satisfaction. An employee may be happy, but that doesn’t mean they are engaged. There are many definitions of employee engagement, but essentially it can be described as “the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.”1

Are your employees passionate about their jobs? Are they committed to your business? How much effort do your employees put into their work every day? Take a few moments to think about your workplace and assess how engaged you think your employees are. At the same time, think about the overall performance of your workplace. If there are performance deficiencies, could this be a result of low employee engagement?

Employee Engagement Drives Profit

There is a strong argument that employee engagement drives performance. In the 1990s, Harvard researchers developed the theory that there are strong links between profitability, customer loyalty, and employee engagement. Essentially, businesses can drive profits by creating the conditions for satisfied and engaged employees, which in turn create meaningful, loyalty-inspiring experiences for customers.2 This theory has been supported by further evidence ever since, but not always with positive results. According to its 2015 report, the Gallup research firm cited that 68.5% of US employees were not engaged in their current roles.3 Within that group, 17.5% of the workforce considered themselves actively disengaged, effectively undermining the success of their own companies. Even worse, the negativity of these disengaged employees could spread to their coworkers, turning potentially engaged employees into non-engaged workers. This results in a lack of productivity for these companies—worth $450 to $550 billion each year.

In short, engagement matters. Research shows that businesses with high engagement consistently outperform their competition in terms of profits, productivity, and turnover. How do you think your workplace measures up?

Another key point of employee engagement is “the extent to which people are personally involved in the success of a business.”2 If your employee has a strong connection to your business, wouldn’t he or she be more likely to go above and beyond to ensure their job is done right and the customer is satisfied?

Improving Employee Engagement

What are some ways to improve engagement? It starts with the leaders. Leaders set and communicate the vision, then hire managers who are just as committed to the mission. The leaders really inspire and empower the managers, who themselves must hire the best people for the team and ensure that everything the team does aligns with the mission. The leaders and managers of the organization are key to active employee engagement and must make it a priority.

In his Forbes article, Brent Gleeson identifies five steps to improve employee engagement:

1. Put everyone in the right role.
2. Give them the training.
3. Task meaningful work.
4. Check in often.
5. Frequently discuss engagement.
4

Managers need to focus on hiring and retaining the right talent, knowing that the selection process for new hires is thorough and that the potential hire will fit in with the organization. Managers should also ensure that each employee has the tools to be successful in your workplace—including the right training; it is impossible to succeed without being properly trained. Employees want to add value and need to have meaningful work. Managers must actively engage and communicate with employees, as well as provide them with regular feedback. Employees appreciate transparency and honesty and want to provide input, so managers should discuss engagement and involve workers in the decision making.

If you know that an engaged workforce can increase performance, raise productivity, grow the workplace, improve customer service, and foster loyalty, both internally and externally, why wouldn’t you make it a strategic priority? In other words, can you afford to ignore employee engagement? What will you do in 2019 to improve employee engagement in your workplace?

About the Author

Jennifer Wheatley, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is the President of HR Consulting and Outsourcing with HR Affiliates.

This article was originally published in Inside Dental Technology, February 2019, Volume 10, Issue 2.

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