Getting and Keeping Your Employees Engaged
Employee engagement is key to higher productivity, less turnover
By Bob Yenkner
“Employee engagement” doesn’t refer to employees about to be married. Rather it indicates an employee’s level of commitment to their job and their company. Most engaged employees exhibit most or all of these four characteristics:
They feel connected to their organization. Employees who are engaged with their employers have an emotional connection between their work and the organization’s success. The catalyst for this connection is usually a close relationship with a direct manager or supervisor who focuses on building an employee’s unique strengths.
They’re committed to their company. The most engaged employees have a clear sense of commitment to their organization—and are less likely to be tempted to leave for higher pay elsewhere. Employers that are transparent, have strong senior leadership, and listen to their employees tend to have an advantage in cultivating strong commitment.
They make tangible contributions. Engaged employees are contributors—offering ideas, mentoring, sharing, volunteering, leading, etc. They tend to be creative in solving problems, will often take initiative, and are not afraid to offer feedback to improve the company’s success.
They demonstrate progress. By setting attainable and realistic goals for every employee, employees can be measured and shown they are growing in both a personal and professional manner.
The key challenge to getting an engagement strategy off the ground is altering the organization’s overall culture. Support for engagement efforts is viewed as the most difficult task for practitioners, not least because it involves changing the actions of various layers of the organization and/or the owner.
Despite popular opinion, engagement is not limited to any particular group, such as this generation or that, or technologists with or without formal education. The key factor in explaining variation in employee engagement is the employer. The most powerful drivers of engagement are the connections between an employee’s on-the-job performance and broader organizational strategy and success. Correctly chosen engagement strategies can reduce an organization’s voluntary termination rate by nearly 10 points. While employee engagement is not a panacea for business outcomes, it certainly helps retention and lowering the cost of turnover.
Consider these three strategies to positively impact employee engagement. First, focus relentlessly on the business. What business issues are in need of focus—quality, revenue, customer retention? Use questions such as, “What could we be doing differently?” to spark discussion. Another way to address engagement is to identify barriers that are specific to your staff and workplace and target them. Consider, though, that not all employees want to be part of a team; they may just want to do their job and go home. A third approach is to engage key contributors in your organization. Expand the organization’s definition of value creators, and embrace and support the people who choose to be involved.
Engaged employees are more productive and less likely to leave their company, and they also boost business much more than their unengaged counterparts. The economic benefits of engagement and the impact it has on retention and discretionary effort are substantial. Research has shown that employees who move from non-commitment to strong commitment are 87% less likely to leave the company.1
Nevertheless, while engagement can drive performance and retention, it cannot replace recruitment of high-caliber talent and supporting that talent with needed resources, information, and experience. By the way: Higher pay does not ensure engagement. None of the top 50 drivers of employee engagement are related to compensation.
1. CEB Corporate Leadership Council. Driving performance and retention through employee engagement. 2004. http://cwfl.usc.edu/assets/pdf/Employee%20engagement.pdf. Accessed August 2, 2017.
About the Author
Bob Yenkner is the owner of Practical Process Improvement located in East Hampton, Connecticut.