Saturday, July 21, 2012

Engage or be out of business

Many researches reveal that best employers excel at employee engagement. So how can you drive employee engagement in your team?

Does employee engagement seem like another buzzword to you? And yet you must be experiencing the presence or absence of it every day at your workplace. Tim Rutledge, Owner and Publisher, Mattanie Press and Author of ‘Getting Engaged: The New Workplace Loyalty’ writes ‘truly engaged employees are: attracted to and inspired by their work (‘I want to do this’), committed (‘I am dedicated to the success of what I am doing’), and fascinated (‘I love what I am doing’).’
The concept of employee engagement was developed in response to increasing globalization. Global competition forced businesses to become more flexible in responding to employee needs. There was also a rising interest in employee engagement due to the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, which caused the economy to dip and created unemployment. Then came the Millennials, a new generation of workers who demanded more from their employer than just pay. Technology continues to revolutionize not only how work gets done, but also how people access their work and each other. As the economy changes and employee needs evolve, employee engagement becomes more and more essential in increasing productivity while satisfying employee needs.
Hewitt has been conducting Best Employers studies around the world. Their research shows that the best employers excel at employee engagement. As a result, they enjoy a bigger pool of talent to select employees and experience lower employee turnover, lower absenteeism rate, increased customer satisfaction, higher economic returns, and greater sustainability in the face of business challenges.
What drives employee engagement and how can you drive it?
Frederick Herzberg observed over 40 years ago that the same employees who complained about poor working conditions, such as cold, dirt and dim lighting were quite happy to work on their cars in a dingy, dusty garage at home. So there was something else that was driving engagement. In fact there are several factors that drive employee engagement. Let us look at how as a manager you can help in creating employee engagement in your team. 
1. Relationship with manager and managerial support: Very often, employees leave an organization not because of the dissatisfaction with the company, but because of the dissatisfaction with the manager. As a manager, you need to provide your team with required direction and resources to support work processes and activities. Be supportive of the engagement initiative while monitoring the work-life balance of employees.
2. Role clarity: Being a manager, you are the best person to provide clarity to employees about what is expected from them at work. Also make them understand how their goals relate to the company goals and how their unit/department contributes to the company’s success. Helping employees clearly understand the mutual responsibility and accountability is at the heart of an effective employer/employee relationship.
3. Challenging work: Being able to do something interesting and meaningful helps create a sense of personal inspiration and accomplishment, leading to pride in one’s work and one’s company. There are certain things that you can do to help promote a more stimulating and challenging environment for your subordinates. You must encourage people to take initiatives, coach and develop people’s skills, and hold people accountable for their performance.
4. Performance feedback and recognition: Regular, specific performance feedback is a powerful tool to engage people. As important as pay and benefits are in attracting and retaining people, they are less important in engaging people in their work. So, offer recognition for employees who excel or who demonstrate a strong passion for their work and organization.
5. Career development opportunities: Get to know your employees, as well as their goals and aspirations, so that together you can develop a clear path for advancement and opportunities for growth. Ensure that high performers in your team advance in the organization.
6. A sense of ‘team’: Foster a sense of community and team work. People’s positive emotions are strongly influenced by the people they work with day-to-day, by collaboration, teamwork and shared goals, and by a sense of a purpose in work.
7. Communication: Effective communication is not just about disseminating basic information. Rather, it is providing context, commentary and ensuring a two-way dialogue. Employees want to know what management thinks and believes and how it plans to act. And they also want forums to give their inputs. Engage employees through direct communication by involving them in important decisions and keeping them informed of new developments or changes within the company. Listen to employees and act on their suggestions. Just listening and not acknowledging, responding or acting on what is being heard can damage credibility and engagement.
8. Control: Employees should have an appropriate decision-making authority and appropriate decision-making input to be truly engaged. If you consistently keep your team members fully informed, you are providing them the necessary foundation to behave responsibly and accept accountability for making their own decisions.
9. Leadership: A clear vision from senior management about future success and senior management taking steps to ensure company’s long-term success are important in driving engagement. Leadership’s interest in employee well-being also helps increase employee engagement. As a manager you can keep your team updated on what the leadership team is doing for them.
10. Company credibility: Organizations that proactively manage their reputations also enjoy higher levels of employee engagement. Employees distance themselves from the business when they believe their company does not have a good reputation. By talking positively about the company and its practices and by correcting any negative perceptions that employees have about the company, you can contribute to employee engagement.
Thus, it takes commitment, consistency, trust in employees’ judgment and strong leadership practices to create employee engagement. Most importantly, it takes strong day-to-day management.

The author is Founder of The HR Practice

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