Employee Engagement, Why It Matters & What It Really Means
As a human resource executive, today’s workplace conversations seem to start and end on the topic of employee engagement. What is it, how do you measure it and most importantly how do you make this workplace magic happen?
First, we must define it. In the simplest terms, employee engagement is an employee intellectual (head) and emotional (heart) connection is demonstrated by motivation and commitment (hands) to positively impact a company’s vision and goals. Employee engagement has greater impact than employee satisfaction. Engaged employees are 44% more productive than satisfied employees according to Gallup. Good news, right? However, Gallup polls from 2018 indicates that only 33% of U.S. employees are engaged at work.
By 2020, the workforce will be made up 50% by the Millennial generation. Having a strong head, heart and hands connection to their work matters to them or they will move on to find it.
Finding the right combination of workplace offerings to increase employee engagement has left most employers frustrated, scratching their heads and not seeing notable return on their investments.
The next step is understanding how to measure this head, heart and hands connection. There are a few common measures such as turnover and absenteeism rates and these alone if you are able to improve have tremendous productivity and financial upside. But there are many other measures often forgotten or not considered such as your employee and customer referral rates, time to fill open positions, time and cost to build and market new products, employee wellbeing or healthcare related cost, workplace accidents, communication and even workplace cleanliness and active participation.
Lastly, what is the fuel that drives employee engagement? There are several them, but they fall into these primary categories; people, compensation, benefits, job and environment.
Where The Pivot Comes In
Often as leaders we spend our time focused on aspects related to compensation, rewards and benefits. Those things we experience others (our competition for talent) doing and can generally assign a cost too.
Unfortunately, if we overspend in these areas the more challenging it is to solve the problem. While the cost of these investments has increase in organizations the level of employee engagement over the last few years according to Gallup has improved less than 4%. That tells us what we are doing today is simply not solving the problem.
Still when I’m attending HR conferences, the number of breakout sessions, books and expo booths remain filled with perks to provide, new and improved ways to reward, benefits to offer and training to give.
Rarely a session or offering challenging the current paradigms of focus to exploring the psychological, physiological and structural landscape to unlock and enhance the employment value proposition and employee engagement. These are the areas that tie into our intellectual (head), emotional (heart) and physical (hands) connections to positively impact a company’s vision and goals.
Low Investment, Big Impact Ways To Pivot:
End unnecessary complexity, keep things simple. Keeping things simple helps with job or role clarity and personal accountability. Reducing the time to productivity and streamlines training.
All businesses and their people have meaning and purpose. Remember to encourage and inspire both.Find ways for three-way communication to flow and flourish. When we encourage listening and communication across all organizational horizontal and verticals results happen. Three-way communication is best when it includes both employees and customers.
Build a cross-collaborative, safe problem-solving community where associates, strategic partners and customers come together to solve problems.
Remove barriers and send those sacred cows off to pasture. Let’s face it, every business has them. Just ask, even the new hire knows what or who they are.Having business and financial acumen is important but the best and most productive workplaces encourage and create a space for everybody to also think like an artist.Being exposed to visual and performance art feeds and cultivates our inner creative where our ideas, imagination and inspiration comes from.
Keep moving, studies show active lifestyles produce greater positive physical and emotional wellbeing outcomes.
Remember not everyone can have peak performance in a fish bowl. Create workspaces that allow for both the type of work and the personality profile of the people who do it.
Encourage everyone to work, live and play outside the box. If everyone in your workplace acts, looks and thinks the same, it’s likely time to acknowledge this creates a creativity and diversity opportunity. Imagine what diversity of thoughts and ideas would bring to your organization.
When we use storytelling to engage others in our presentation is a good thing. When we use storytelling to avoid communicating or facing reality, that’s not such a good thing.
Hosting and investing in company experiences that combine fun, physical activity, community, creativity, education and strategically feed both company and individual purpose.
If you are an executive reading this, I’m not encouraging you to stop offering competitive compensation and benefits as part of your overall engagement strategy, but my ask is that you pivot other spend and energy away from free lunches, common décor or design strategies and building in-house slides and bowling alleys. Instead making the shift to higher levels of psychological, physiological and structural landscape investments. Investments that feed into our intellectual (head), emotional (heart) and physical (hands) connections. Those I can give you assurance will make a positive difference to your company and people.
About the Author
Jill Lehman is the Vice President and Chief People Officer at Ontario Systems LLC, a five consecutive year Indiana Best Places to Work and five-star Wellness Company. She is also an entrepreneur and business owner leading High Frequency Arts, a Fishers based a commercial and residential art strategy, project management and procurement firm. Jill believes a leader’s role is to help people flourish.