What is employee engagement?
Published: September 10 2013
Employee engagement is not the process of buying cards for your staff on their birthdays and special occasions or the office party…
It is about the more serious process of keeping the employees you have, focused on their work and less likely to leave or have frequent periods of absence because they are happy with you as an employer and with the work, they do for you. It is a misconception to think that the best way of motivating your staff is to give them more money. Research always indicates that pay levels are not the incentives we might believe them to be. Given the state of everyone’s budgets, this has to be good news for the employer. But, if it’s not money that motivates your staff, what is it?
There was generally a paternalistic relationship between employer and employee, with a ‘job for life’ and long service awards. Nowadays, employees do not feel that same certainty at their place of work. This is as a result of the current economic climate, organisations frequently re-structuring and merging and individuals seeking career progression or work-life balance by moving jobs or even changing career altogether.
What employers need to offer instead is a focus on ‘empowerment’ – more flexible working conditions, often including home-working, and as well as this, a focus on the balance of rewards and benefits that they receive in return for their performance in the workplace. Part of this is a focus on employee ‘wellbeing’ – which can range from gym memberships and discounts on services and products to massages within the workplace and confidential helplines offering advice on stress, dependency issues or family matters. These non-financial benefits are increasingly being expected by employees, and by offering them, employers are illustrating that they care for the entire ‘wellbeing’ of their employees – not just for their level of production.
Should we invest in employee engagement?
Any investment in Employee Engagement needs a sound business case behind it. Research by Unilever found that a 5% increase in employee satisfaction at work leads to both a 2% increase in customer loyalty and a 2% jump in profitability. Gallup research showed that in ‘world-class’ companies, the ratio of ‘engaged’ to ‘disengaged’ employees is 9:1; in a typical company, the ratio is closer to 2:1. If we look at those ratios as a tug-of-war team: in a company that is leading in its field, there are 9 employees ‘pulling’ on the side of the employer, to every 1 who is ‘pulling away’. In a typical company, there are only 2 employees on the employer’s ‘side’ for every 1 that is pulling the opposite way. This explains why companies, who recognise and invest in Employee Engagement such as Google and John Lewis, are able to see increases in profits and growth even in the current economic times.
Employee Engagement is about much more than ‘ticking boxes’ – it actually has a fundamental impact on how your company operates, evolves and hopefully grows.
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