There are many things which are talked about in the Human Resources (HR) world which employers don’t understand or pay much attention to. They just think it is so much jargon. If they don’t understand it, the danger is that they ignore it. This can cause them problems in their business.
Employee Engagement probably comes under that heading. So the purpose of this article is to explain employee engagement. It is important to you as an employer – for business success and growth. It should be easy to achieve, at least on a basic level. And it is something which needn’t cost you much money.
So what is employee engagement and why should you care?
What is employee engagement?
Essentially, it is the ingredient that makes an employee want to come to work every day. It is what makes employees give commitment and loyalty to their work and workplace.
For employees, it is the feeling of being trusted and valued by your employer. And it is about understanding your job and how that fits into the overall direction of the organisation. Another element is being free to give your opinion, or raise concerns. You want to feel that you have been heard and your view is valued. This doesn’t necessarily mean your suggestions will be acted on or agreed with, but your view is valued and you are encouraged to voice it.
There are many, many factors which contribute to employee engagement and they all inter-connect, but the things outlined above are the basics the employer needs to ensure are in place to help employees feel engaged.
Why does employee engagement matter?
If your employees like coming to work and are happy when they are at work, then they will be productive. They will be loyal and will do what they can to support your business. This equals growth and is likely to bring you increased profits and a more successful business.
Your people are key to business success and you need to put them at the centre of your plans for the business. Of course, there are other things that are critical to your success. Some of these are finances; customers; regulation; your ability to innovate. But these things (and many others) are all impacted by the people in the business and your relationship with those people.
If you do not engage with your employees, then you risk high absence and high turnover of staff. You will find that your staff lack motivation and cannot interact well with your customers. They will not be creative or innovative. They are the key to the success of your business, or its decline.
You can measure employee engagement and you can take steps to increase it.
How can an employer achieve employee engagement?
Employee engagement is a gradual change to the culture of the organisation. It can take some time to achieve changes, but there are things which you can do immediately.
The key is for this to be a genuine change in direction on your part. It is no good just to pay lip-service to the idea of employee engagement. In essence, you need to cultivate a real desire and intention to engage with your employees. You need to listen to them, understand their needs, make changes as a result.
Managers in any organisation are critical to the success of employee engagement. You need your managers to buy into the change. They may even need some development and skills training.
You need to have a clear vision for your organisation. For a start, you need to understand what it is that you are aiming to achieve and you need to be able to communicate that to your staff. Ideally, you can then help your staff to understand how their specific job contributes to the success of that vision. They need to be able to see that their job is important and valued by the organisation.
It will really help you if you take steps to ensure that you and your managers are effective at managing people. You need to know how to listen to people and have the skills to motivate and empower them.
Listen to your employees
Another key to having motivated employees is for them to feel that their views are valued. They know the job and what works – or doesn’t work. Undoubtedly, they will have views about the best way to achieve results. You need to ensure you have a method for hearing what they say. They will probably have some good ideas, which could make positive changes in your business. If they come up with a suggestion which isn’t practical, then it is fine to turn the idea down. But you must explain why it won’t work, or why it needs to be delayed. The employees want to feel that you have really considered their views
Trust and Integrity – a two-way street
The final key step to an engaged workforce is potentially the most important one. It involves building an environment where there is trust between you and your staff. You need to live up to your promises. You need to make sure your managers are living up to them too. It is all very well to have policies and rules, but you need to ensure they are followed – by everyone. Managers and employees alike.
Summing up the basics of employee engagement
The four key steps to successful employee engagement are:
Vision – have a vision of where your organisation is heading. Make sure you are able to communicate that vision to your staff, so they can see the importance of their own role in achieving that vision.
Management Skills – make sure you and your managers are skilled in listening, empowering and managing staff.
Listen to your employees – make sure you have a mechanism in place for your employees to voice their ideas, concerns and suggestions. And ensure that you consider those ideas and give them proper feedback.
Ensure trust is a two-way street – trust your employees and make sure they can trust you. Live up to promises made. Apply rules and procedures to everyone, including managers.
These steps are just the starting point, if you really want to engage with your employees. Over the next few weeks, this blog will cover each step in more detail and talk about some of the many other things you can do to engage with and motivate your staff.
If you can connect with your employees and make them understand their contribution to the success of your business, then you will have a loyal, engaged workforce who will help you to grow your business and increase your profits.
If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.