November 25, 2015
One of the enduring quests organisations continue to undertake is that for the fully engaged employee. They do this for very good business reasons. Managers who understand the benefits of employee engagement can expect to reap the substantial benefits of a more collaborative work environment. In turn, this will lead to an engaging and productive workspace. However, in a majority of organisations, employee engagement remains lower than 35 percent. In light of this principle, Impraise has conducted a study based on over 30 000 feedback interactions between hundreds of managers and employees to see how they would differ from each other when asking for feedback. The results that were found resulted to be interesting and gave a better understanding of the how engaged employees are, and what firms can do to address the chronic levels of disengagement.
Understanding emotional commitment
It’s important to understand what employee engagement actually means. According to Kevin Kruse, author of the NY Times bestseller, We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement, employee engagement is “the emotional commitment that we have to our organization and the organization’s goals. When we’re engaged, we’re emotionally committed, which means we’re going to give effort voluntarily. We’re going to go the extra mile.”. Some influencers go even further and talk about “sustainable engagement” which, according to Tony Schwartz, co-author of The Power of Full Engagement, means “the added energy derived from the capacity for absorbed focus and a strong sense of purpose.”
A new meta-analysis of over 1.4 million employees conducted by the Gallup Organization found that organizations with a high level of engagement report 22 percent higher productivity and profitability. The analysis also found that highly engaged organizations have double the rate of success of lower engaged organizations.
However, despite all those benefits, according to Kevin Sheridan author of “Building a Magnetic Culture”, even the best companies–those scoring in the top 10 percent on employee surveys–register only about 38 percent of their employees as “fully engaged,”. According to Gallup, just 30 percent of American workers are engaged at work, costing the nation $450 billion to $550 billion per year in lost productivity. So why does employee engagement remain so low?
Interpersonal vs productivity
The “Global analysis: How real-time feedback affects work performance and employee engagement” report found that employees are more likely to ask for feedback on their interpersonal skills, such as listening (55 percent) and leadership (15 percent). Managers, on the other hand, are more concerned about their productivity (42 percent) and presentation skills (85 percent). See detailed results here.
So how do these results relate to employee engagement? It starts with leadership, and good leadership involves understanding your employees’ values and what they care about most. What is clear from this report is that employees emphasise interpersonal skills over any other skill, whereas managers keep prioritizing technical skills such as productivity and presentation. This demonstrates a clear disruption in priorities from managers and employees in the workplace. So how to know if this disruption is taking place in your company and boost your employee engagement?
Real time engagement
Analysing comes first when boosting engagement. Before doing anything in particular, measuring the level of engagement in your company will create a benchmark from which you can make decisions.
Measuring methods still differ among companies. Ryan Fuller, an effectiveness expert with over twenty years of experience, proposes some aspects to measure in order to get an overview of the engagement level. The amount of work that occurs outside of normal working hours, the number of network connections and time spent with people outside of immediate team or region, the percentage of participation in ad-hoc meetings and initiatives vs. recurring meetings and processes and time spent collaborating directly with customers outside of the normal scope of work, are some of the aspects that Fuller suggests to focus on.
Another solution for measuring can be the classic quick surveys every three weeks to analyse the employee satisfaction level or any of the new employee feedback apps that are on the rise . Many companies are ditching previous methods and choosing this continuous approach to feedback that is cost effective and beneficial to every team member.
Focus on purpose to boost engagement
According to Jim Harter Ph.D. a chief scientist at Gallup Research, “One way to simplify engagement is to focus on purpose. Communicate the purpose of the organization, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose. When employees “clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfill their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organizational purpose,” says Harter, that’s the recipe for creating greater levels of engagement.
Eliminating stress, showing appreciation and giving your employees the opportunity to grow are three pillars to boost employee engagement. According to research by Towers Watson, employees who experience too much stress at work are less engaged and less productive. For that, simple activities to distend such as guided meditation sessions three times a week for 20 minutes before working would help to reduce everyone’s stress. For showing appreciation, expressing praise regularly, not just at annual reviews or holiday parties would make your employees work harder and care more about their jobs when their efforts are noticed and rewarded.
For employees, the desire to find better growth opportunities became the number one reason today’s talented young employees are leaving their employers. In order to keep your current employees engaged, a way to show employees that you want them to grow professionally is to have 1:1 conversations about personal and professional goals, outlining how the company can help to this process of growing.
Employee engagement is a valuable asset to any company, as it increases productivity, enhances employee work relationships and contributes to a collaborative work environment. When managers understand what drives employees, they can create a work environment that is suited to those needs. It’s imperative that managers understand this notion in this day and age because a work environment that lacks engagement will result in the organisation failing to remain competitive, and will eventually grind to a halt.
Matias Rodsevic works for Impraise, a provider of web-based mobile solution for feedback at work. Based in San Francisco and Amsterdam Impraise works with clients like Booking.com, Flipboard, Atlassian and others.