When discussing employee engagement, one of the first issues to consider is the lack of a consistent definition. To some Leaders, employee engagement is a measure of employee happiness. To others, employee engagement means job satisfaction. However, employees can be happy at work and/or satisfied with their job and not be engaged. A more appropriate definition is “the relationship between an organization and its employees”.
Employees who are enthusiastic about their organization contribute to overall performance in a positive manner and, as a result, an organization with a high level of employee engagement will generally outperform those with low employee engagement. Obviously, employees work for and care about their paycheck, but engaged employees are also committed to their organization and its goals. They care about their work results and the organization’s performance in addition to their compensation. They go “above and beyond” and give discretionary effort. Engaged sales people make that extra cold call, engaged customer support people provide a high level of support on the last customer interaction of their shift, and engaged programmers will work overtime without being asked, to solve a customer’s problem. Engaged employees contribute to improved product quality and customer service, drive innovation and increase revenue and profit. Non-engaged workers can have the opposite effects.
The Gallup 2013 report on employee engagement found that only 30% of the employees in the U.S. are engaged. Accordingly, non-engaged employees represent one of the biggest opportunities for increasing revenue and profit for U.S. businesses. The following are some action items that will improve employee engagement:
• Make your vision, mission and values an integral part of your organization and apply them to every constituency every day.
• Establish clear organizational goals. As much as possible, include employees from various levels in planning these goals. Ensure that department and team goals are aligned with organizational goals. Communicate the goals and the organization’s performance on an ongoing basis.
• Recognize employees who contribute to achieving organizational, department and team goals. Emphasize informal as well as formal recognition. Leaders at all levels should remember to say thank you.
• Encourage employee feedback and listen to it. Take appropriate action whenever possible to achieve suggestions for improvement. If action is not possible, explain why. As part of “listening”, encourage employees to improve workflows. Simplifying procedures and processes can have a profound effect on employee engagement.
• Employee relationships with immediate supervisors are critical to employee engagement. Yet, many supervisors have had little or no leadership training. Improve your employee-supervisor relationships by providing leadership training for all supervisors.
• Invest in all of your employees with a formal professional development program.
• Foster an environment of trust and remember that trust must be earned.
• Keep a reasonable balance between workload and headcount. If your employees are stretched too thin and you can’t hire more people, eliminate or reduce low value tasks. Communicate the problem and ask the employees for their help solving it.
• Encourage flextime and work-at-home, which are great employee engagement tools.
• Create opportunities and work place areas for employees to connect with each other in informal, work-related and non-work activities.
• Work to eliminate or reduce dysfunctional employee and team behaviors.
• Provide opportunities for advancement.
• Empower your employees. Leaders should establish vision, negotiate desired outcomes and schedules, measure performance, provide assistance and/or rewards, but not micromanage.
• Develop an informal, friendly, team-oriented organizational culture.
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