An “engaged employee” is one who is fully involved in and enthusiastic about his or her work, and thus acts in a way that benefits their organization. An engaged employee is aware of the organization’s goals and collaborates with coworkers to improve job performance for the benefit of the organization. It is the employees’ positive attitude toward the organization and its values.

According to a survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Federation of People Management Associations, enhancing employee engagement is one of the four most important HR topics to focus on in volatile times, along with managing talent, leadership development, and strategic workforce planning. The engagement has the potential to significantly affect not only employee retention, productivity, and loyalty, but it is also a key link to customer satisfaction, company reputation, and overall stakeholder value.

What exactly is employee engagement?

Employee engagement can be defined in a variety of ways, ranging from brief and concise to elaborate and comprehensive. Many of these definitions highlight some aspect of an employee’s commitment to the organization or the positive behaviors displayed by an engaged employee.

Employee engagement definitions include the following:

  1. Employee engagement is the strength of the mental and emotional connection that employees have with their workplaces, according to Quantum Workplace.
  2. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, excited about, and committed to their work and workplace.
  3. Willis Towers Watson defines Employee engagement as the employees’ willingness and ability to contribute to the success of the company.
  4. Employee engagement, according to Aon Hewitt, is “the level of an employee’s psychological investment in their organization.”

What employee engagement does not include

Employee engagement does not imply that the employee is content. An employee may be in a good mood, but that does not always translate into productive engagement on behalf of the company. While company initiatives to improve employee happiness can be beneficial, and team outings, paid leave, and other incentives can boost employee morale, they do not guarantee employee engagement.

Employee engagement encompasses more than just job satisfaction. Many businesses have satisfied employees who show up for work during regular working hours or do what is expected of them, but if they are not engaged, they will not go the extra mile to drive the business forward.

Employee Engagement Categories

According to Gallup, employees can be categorized as engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged:

  • Employees who are “engaged” are builders. They are aware of the desired expectations for their role and are capable of meeting and exceeding those expectations. They consistently deliver at a high level and apply their talents and strengths at work every day.
  • Employees who are disengaged tend to focus on tasks rather than the goals and outcomes they are expected to achieve. They want to be told what to do so that they can complete the task. Employees who are disengaged believe that their contributions are being overlooked and that their full potential is not being realized. They frequently feel this way because they do not have positive working relationships with their managers or coworkers.
  • Actively Disengaged – Employees who are “actively disengaged” are not only unhappy at work; they are also busy acting out their dissatisfaction at work. They sow seeds of negativity everywhere they go. As workers increasingly rely on one another to generate products and services, the problems and tensions created by actively disengaged workers can have a significant impact on an organization’s ability to function.

According to the Gallup Employee Engagement Index, only 33% of workers are engaged in their jobs, 49% are not engaged, and 18% are actively disengaged. Gallup researchers estimate that disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses up to $350 billion per year, based on a survey of nearly 42,000 randomly selected adults. Whereas this may appear to be a concerning statistic, it also provides management with an opportunity to steer their disengaged workforce toward a more engaged one.

What factors influence employee engagement?

According to recent research, employers who actively engage employees and encourage them to be creative will attract top-tier candidates and retain loyal employees, giving them a competitive advantage.

The IMR research group polled nearly 2,000 workers across the United States and discovered that the key drivers of employee loyalty include employee decision-making autonomy, trust between management and employees, opportunities for professional development, and active encouragement of creativity.

Traits of engaged and disengaged employees:

Engaged behaviorsDisengaged behaviors
PositiveNegative
MotivatedDemotivated
Team-orientedSelf-centered
Exceeds expectationsDoes the bare minimum
Solution-orientedProblem obsessed
SelflessSelf-centered
Shows a passion for learningFocuses on monetary benefits
Gives credit to others but accepts blameInvolved in the blame game
OptimisticPessimistic
ResponsibleIrresponsible
Encourages team membersNegative influence on others

 

Engagement’s Business Results

Highly engaged employees were five times less likely than nonengaged employees to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident at beverage giant Molson Coors. In one year, the company saved $1,721,760 in safety costs by increasing employee engagement.

Caterpillar’s increased employee engagement resulted in $8.8 million in annual savings from decreased attrition, absenteeism, and overtime in a European plant, as well as a $2 million increase in profit and a 34 percent increase in highly satisfied customers in a start-up plant.

Quantum Workplace (the research firm behind more than 40 metro area “Best Places to Work” programs) has identified five key factors that distinguish companies with higher engagement scores from others. Companies like these:

  • Create a compelling vision that inspires each employee.
  • Create a well-structured onboarding program.
  • Determine the appropriate roles for each new resource. Examine each employee’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Engage in open and honest communication with all members of the staff.
  • Delegate important tasks. Set attainable engagement goals, KRAs, and KPIs.
  • Maintain a focus on employee career development and advancement.
  • Organize training and mentoring programs for the employee’s overall development.
  • Recognize and reward exceptional performance by star performers.
  • Employee benefits that demonstrate a strong commitment to employee well-being should be provided.
  • Empower employees to effect positive change in the workplace culture.
  • Utilize useful employee feedback

What is the difference between employee engagement and job satisfaction?

The terms “job satisfaction” and “engagement” are frequently used interchangeably. However, research has revealed that, while there is some overlap in the drivers of engagement and satisfaction, there are also significant differences in the factors that influence each.

Some experts define employee engagement in terms of their feelings and behavior. Employees who are engaged may report feeling focused and intensely involved in their work. They are ecstatic and have a strong sense of urgency. Engaged behavior is persistent, proactive, and adaptive in ways that allow job roles to be expanded as needed. Employees who are engaged go above and beyond their job descriptions, for example, in service delivery or innovation. Whereas engaged employees have a sense of urgency and focus on how they approach their work, satisfied employees are pleasant, content, and gratified. Employee job satisfaction in an organization frequently relates to factors over which the organization has control (such as pay, benefits, and job security), whereas engagement levels are largely under the employee’s direct control or significantly influenced by the employee’s manager (through job assignments, trust, recognition, day-to-day communications, etc.).

Researchers at the Kenexa High-Performance Institute examined 840,000 employee engagement responses from companies in the United States and the United Kingdom and discovered that 57 percent of respondents were disengaged after two years on the job.

What Factors Influence Employee Engagement?

Extensive research has been carried out to identify the factors that influence employee engagement levels. According to the research, there are both organizational and managerial drivers.

Organizational motivators

Some of the research identifies drivers of employee engagement at the organizational level.

Quantum Workplace (the research firm behind the “Best Places to Work” programs in over 47 metro areas) has identified six key drivers of employee engagement:

  • Their organization’s leaders are dedicated to making it a great place to work.
  • Trust the organization’s leaders to steer the ship in the right direction.
  • Belief in the organization’s ability to succeed in the future.
  • Understanding of my role in the organization’s long-term goals.
  • People are the most important resource for the organization’s leaders.
  • The organization makes investments to help employees succeed.

Management motivators

Employee engagement skyrockets when employees have positive relationships with their direct supervisors or managers on a daily basis. Employee engagement has been linked to the following behaviors of an employee’s direct supervisors:

Gallup’s “Q12” are 12 core elements that are strongly linked to key business outcomes. These elements pertain to what the employee receives (e.g., clear expectations, resources), what the employee gives (e.g., individual contributions), whether the individual fits in the organization (e.g., based on the company mission and coworkers), and whether the employee has the opportunity to grow (e.g., by getting feedback about work and opportunities to learn).
These elements pertain to what the employee receives (e.g., clear expectations, resources), what the employee gives (e.g., individual contributions), whether the individual fits in the organization (e.g., based on the company mission and coworkers), and whether the employee has the opportunity to grow (e.g., by getting feedback about work and opportunities to learn).

  • Employees have a positive relationship with their boss.
  • Employees have the tools they need to do their jobs well.
  • Employees have the authority they need to do their jobs well.
  • Employees have the authority to make work decisions.

The Functions of Human Resources and Management

Many factors influence employee engagement, ranging from workplace culture, organisational communication, and managerial styles to trust and respect, leadership, and company reputation. HR professionals and managers, both collectively and individually, play critical roles in ensuring the success of the organization’s employee engagement initiatives.

Human Resources’ Role

HR should lead the way in the design, measurement, and evaluation of proactive workplace policies and practises that help attract and retain talent with the skills and competencies required for growth and sustainability in order to foster a culture of engagement.

Managers’ responsibilities

Middle managers play an important role in employee engagement by developing a respectful and trusting relationship with their direct reports, communicating company values, and establishing expectations for the day-to-day operations of any organization.

According to studies, people leave managers rather than companies, so ensuring managers are actively participating in and managing employee engagement is critical. Employee Engagement Problems? Use These 10 Strategies to Engage Managers.

Middle managers, on the other hand, need to be empowered by being given more responsibilities, trained for their expanded roles, and involved in strategic decisions. If an organization’s executives and human resources professionals want to hold managers accountable for employee engagement levels, they should do the following:

  • Ensure that managers and employees have the tools they need to do their jobs properly.
  • Managers should be given larger, more exciting roles on a regular basis.
  • Give managers the necessary authority.
  • Increase the pace of leadership development.
  • Request that managers communicate the corporate mission and vision, as well as assist in the transformation of the organization.
  • According to a Dale Carnegie study published in 2017, “Only 26% of leaders polled say employee engagement is a very important part of what they think about, plan for, and do on a daily basis. Another 42% say they work on it on a regular basis, with the remainder working on it only infrequently, if at all “Never, ever.”

HR procedures

Employee engagement is significantly influenced by HR practices. Employee engagement can be increased by implementing the following practices:

  • Job advancement. Incorporate meaning, variety, autonomy, and coworker respect into jobs and tasks so that employees see their role more broadly and are more willing to take on duties that go beyond the scope of their job description.
  • Recruiting is taking place. Look for applicants who will find their work interesting and challenging. Encourage those who are not suited for specific jobs to withdraw from the process.
  • Choosing. Choose candidates who are most likely to perform well on the job, make voluntary contributions, and avoid inappropriate behavior.
  • Development and training. Provide orientation to help employees understand how their job contributes to the organization. Provide skill development training in order to improve job performance, satisfaction, and self-efficacy.
  • Strategic remuneration Pay-for-performance programs can be used to direct employees’ attention to incentivized behaviors. Adopt competency-based pay to encourage knowledge and skill acquisition and improve employee performance.
  • Management of performance. Set challenging goals that are aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives, provide feedback, and recognize achievements and extra voluntary contributions.

 

Importance of communication

Employers have numerous opportunities for “engageable moments,” during which they can motivate and direct employees. According to Watson Wyatt’s WorkUSA report, the following formal and informal “engageable moment” opportunities exist:

Among the formal opportunities are:

  • Onboarding and recruitment
  • Performance evaluations.
  • Setting Goals.
  • Employee polls
  • Management Meetings
  • Training

Among the informal opportunities are:

  • Coaching or Mentoring
  • Informal discussions about professional development.
  • Ongoing performance evaluation.
  • Programs for recognizing excellence.
  • Company social gatherings

Employee engagement is important not only to HR professionals but also to business leaders because it has a direct impact on a company’s financial health and profitability. As a result, when developing an HR plan for an organization, employee engagement strategies should take precedence.

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