Strategic HR

Employee Engagement – how to turn it into a strategy?

“There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

In a world of constant change, businesses have to find many different ways to rapidly adapt. In such a turbulent landscape, employees are often burnt out, disengaged and lack work-life balance. 

We should stop for a moment and take a glance around our office and think: do employees seem happy? Do they genuinely care for the business? If the answer is NO, can employee engagement be the solution?

What exactly is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is in a way a buzz-phrase at the moment; more and more business people are realizing the value and importance of happy, engaged employees. However, the question is: how can this be achieved?

Employee engagement is important because it goes a step beyond employee motivation and employee satisfaction. It also includes an emotional connection to an organization that results in employee loyalty and commitment.

Achieving employee engagement may be slightly different from one company to another, depending on the workforce employed or resources available. As a result, achieving engagement requires an organization to examine its workplace practices, in order to identify those that most strongly contribute to the outcome called employee engagement, as defined by the model chosen by the organization.

Employee engagement strategies have been proven to reduce staff turnover, improve productivity and efficiency, retain customers at a higher rate, and make more profits. Most importantly, engaged employees are happier, both at work and in their lives.

Overall, an organization that encourages employee engagement operates in a manner that enables employees to see a connection between their efforts and the success of the organization.

Employees are engaged when: they understand where the business is going, when they feel that their contribution is valued, when they can see a promising future for themselves, are given opportunities to express their views, have a balance between their work life and personal life and when they believe they are treated fairly and have an affinity for their work. 

The main aim of employee engagement is to tap into workers’ discretionary effort

Engaged employees will willingly and eagerly do more than what is required because they take pride in their work, their employer and their contribution.

Launching a strategic employee engagement program requires a certain level of investment of time and resources.

As a result, when introducing the idea of it, many managers and executives wonder just how much budget they should dedicate to developing an engagement program. When it comes to investing in the program it’s reasonable to establish the potential Return of investment before committing the maximum amount of time and money.

Strategic planning is critical for lasting engagement. Too often, companies spend time and resources on HR initiatives without thinking strategically about them. Being strategic about employee engagement means every invested initiative addresses a real problem in a company. This means understanding the core drivers of employee engagement and speaking with or surveying employees to gain insight into what they want from their workplace.

When building a long-term, strategic engagement plan, the starting point should be selecting a driver of engagement and asking questions such as: 

  • What specific initiatives are there to support this driver of engagement? 
  • Will investing in a new initiative in this area address the most urgent people’s problems? 
  • What could be done better in this area?

Building an employee engagement strategy means choosing the drivers of engagement that respond to the most urgent HR problems.

However, management itself plays a crucial role in engaging employees.

Management with an inclusive and participatory approach and leadership qualities attract and retain committed employees. Management should also integrate and support employee growth for their career enhancement. An inclusive and satisfied workforce leads to an efficient and productive environment in the long run.

Management needs to be capable of managing the employees in a nourishing manner. These include respectful, responsible, proactive, participative, sociable and empathetic behavior towards employees.

The next step is to come up with actionable ideas to support each driver of employee engagement such as:

  • Implementation of the performance and goal tracking software.
  • Supporting promotion from within the company.
  • Subsidizing courses and knowledge development for employees
  • Launch a monthly company newsletter (for internal staff only).
  • Launch yearly manager evaluations (employees anonymously evaluate their direct manager)
  • Offering a flex-time policy.
  • Offering employees credit for gym memberships or other wellness activities.
  • Implementing a suggestion system. Employees can send anonymous feedback to HR anytime.
  • Implementing a Peer-to-Peer Recognition Program.
  • Implementing Employee Recognition Training for all new managers.
  • Offering a budget for a lunch and celebration for employees’ birthdays.

After all of this is completed, there should be a clear idea of the concrete initiatives to be taken to reach the ultimate goal of higher employee engagement. 

According to Gallup at beverage giant Molson Coors, highly engaged employees were five times less likely than non-engaged employees to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident. By strengthening employee engagement, the company saved $1,721,760 in safety costs in one year.

Another example is the construction equipment maker Caterpillar’s increased employee engagement that resulted in $8.8 million annual savings from decreased attrition, absenteeism and overtime in a European plant, and a $2 million increase in profit plus a 34 percent increase in highly satisfied customers in a start-up plant.

Employee engagement is one of the key factors in the process of enhancing business performance. An engaged employee understands the role in the business strategy, has a strong emotional connection and commitment for the organization, is more involved and strives for success. 

Engagement improves competitiveness and, when done right, can do wonders for the organization.

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