HR professionals know how employee engagement works, although not all managers get it, in essence, engaged employees demonstrate higher levels of performance, commitment, and loyalty, whereas the disengaged do not.
Building a culture where employees engage with their work and organizational objectives is important because the employer benefits from staff who are likely to put energy and commitment into the work and the discretionary effort that makes for a high-performance workplace.
Gallup characterizes three levels of engagement – the engaged, not‐engaged, and the actively disengaged, with the latter being of most concern to the employer brand because they are likely to share their discontent with co-workers and the world at large.
Once you are aware of the importance of employee engagement you can see the organizational benefit of raising levels of engagement. If you want people who put in extra effort and generate innovative ideas to improve services and save money you need a management style and corporate culture which is collaborative and empowers and engages employees.
Enabling engagement to flourish
There are a number of key drivers to consider in trying to build employee engagement:
- Job design has a clear influence on levels of engagement. Good employees want challenging, creative and varied work that uses existing skills and enables the development of new skills.
- Staff wants to feel that the work they do is important, with a clear purpose and meaning.
- Opportunities for, and access to, development and training opportunities that enable career growth, are considered crucial in enabling engagement with the organization.
- Constructive, regular feedback aligned with timely recognition and reward are key drivers. Salary is important but is not something that secures engagement.
- Building a collaborative environment that engenders good working relationships between employees and managers. Reciprocity is crucial, with managers making time to listen and employees feeling they have a voice.
- Employees want to understand corporate values and goals and see how their own role contributes to the bigger picture.
- Leaders and managers who support and inspire staff, developing them, encouraging them to use their strengths and giving them the autonomy and accountability to work towards clear goals, are seen as engaging.
Engagement is influenced by the culture of the organization, leadership and management style, internal communications, levels of trust and respect, and organizational reputation. Critical for building employee engagement, and building effective performance, is an employee’s commitment and the ‘extent to which the employee derives enjoyment, meaning, pride and inspiration from something or someone in the organisation’, (Lockwood, 2007).
In terms of engaging with the disaffected, it seems that trust in the organization’s senior management is a major issue for those who are disengaged. It may be that having trust does not directly influence engagement levels but research suggests that where trust is lacking, disengagement results.
Organizations which are characterized as an ‘employer of choice’ are more likely to have high levels of employee engagement which they create with workplace environments where employees feel respected and valued, and feel a connection with the organization such that they are willing to exert discretionary effort in the pursuit of its success.