Are your employees engaged and why does it even matter?
Over the next five weeks, we’re going to take a ‘deep dive’ look at employee engagement and consider its value to your business, examining the theory across a series of factors – from leadership and communication through to processes and structures. To start with, let’s look at why employee engagement matters – and how you can tell whether your own workforce is currently engaged.
Certainly, all business leaders talk about wanting to create an engaged workforce. But why, precisely, does it matter so much? Regardless of the business type and industry, an engaged workforce will offer the following benefits:
1. A strong business culture
A great business culture will drive forward employee engagement, and these dynamic elements will create a continuous feedback loop when properly nurtured by leaders and the right supporting structures and processes. When employees feel connected and involved with the bigger picture, they will create powerful relationships with coworkers that strengthen the company’s culture of innovation and delivery and create better loyalty.
2. Better performance
Engaged employees provide more discretionary effort. If your office empties in a flash as the clock strikes 5 pm, you may either have a culture of leadership which wants everyone out of the door in support of a healthy work/life balance – or, more commonly, your engagement is lacking. Employees who are bought-in to the company culture and who believe in it will invariably provide discretionary effort. This doesn’t mean that you want a culture of ‘presenteeism’. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that you want everyone working late all the time chasing impossible goals. But if the buzz continues a little beyond home time, it’s a good indicator that the extra discretionary effort is occurring.
3. Better bottom line figures
If employee engagement leads to discretionary effort, then we know that more innovation, creativity and focus is occurring by default. Disengaged workers tick along and do their job-by-numbers. Engaged workers use their brains, talents and skills to bring their role to life and to deliver challenging objectives that stimulate, stretch and excite them. This naturally leads to better bottom line results; greater profit margins for profit-making businesses and better-targeted outcomes for non-profits.
These outcomes are broad too. Gallup carries out an annual employee engagement survey of more than a million employees and finds that high engagement leads to higher productivity, fewer workplace accidents, less absenteeism, higher profits and happier customers. 
4. Stronger retention
Talent retention is a strategic priority for most businesses, and strong engagement naturally leads to retention of good staff. Even better, those good staff are likely to act as referrers for other talented individuals; sharing their positive experiences of working for your business and encouraging others to join.
5. Better management
Employees often leave companies when they don’t believe in their senior leaders. If your senior management team lives your corporate values and demonstrates integrity, passion and commitment to the business, the ‘shadow of the leader’ effect will encourage your employees to follow suit. Leading by example has powerful benefits for workplace motivation and performance.
Measuring employee engagement
So how can you tell if your employees are engaged?
An annual survey
Most organisations will carry out a comprehensive, all-staff survey with around 40-50 questions covering a range of strategic topics including leadership, reward and remuneration, communication, development opportunities and so forth. This might be supported by regular pulse surveys throughout the year – short topical questions designed to check progress or to temperature check a key indicator – and other supporting activities such as focus groups. The first survey will provide a benchmark and trends can be assessed over time. These surveys are often delivered with external specialist support for objectivity and external benchmarking, and to ensure that employees feel comfortable in the objectivity and anonymity of the survey results.
Some organisations will also create a holistic dashboard which measures other indicative business areas that are linked with employee engagement. This could include workplace safety and number of accidents, staff turnover and absence levels, internal promotion levels, customer satisfaction levels and so forth. Regardless of the data gathering and assessment approach, however, the most important thing is that the results are reviewed, acted upon and communicated clearly with all employees in a meaningful way. It is also wise to ensure employees have a chance to drive forward projects and initiatives that tackle any development areas.
Other supporting measures
Softer measures can also give you a sense check of how well your organisation is performing in its engagement initiatives. For example:
– Your team are happy to socialise outside of work
– Your people can verbalise the company’s mission, purpose and values. They will also recognise and know the internal leadership team
– The office doesn’t empty immediately at 5pm as your workers flee from their desks! Whilst presenteeism doesn’t indicate a healthy culture, a healthy buzz and willingness to finish up good work after hours can be a good sign of a creative, productive and fulfilling workplace culture.
So, if employee engagement is something on your ‘to do’ list to focus on this year – approach it strategically, wholeheartedly and genuinely and look forward to reaping the benefits! Why not consider investing in a strategy workshop and ask the question ‘are your employees engaged?’