What is employee engagement?
As a consultant at Helios, I often hear my clients ask, “What is employee engagement?” Yes, it’s a phrase that Human Resources uses, but the term “engagement” is actually quite relatable to everyone if you think about it. Take engaged couples for example, they commit to each other to work together to achieve their life’s dreams (“goals”). If one of the partners is not committed (“engaged”), the end result is often a breakup (“termination”). Well, employee engagement is similar – an employee commits to a company to help that business achieve its goals and if not engaged, often the relationship suffers and eventually ends with goals not being achieved. Studies have shown that engaged employees not only achieve their objectives, but typically exceed them!
So, how do we effectively engage employees?
Think CORD: Communication, Opportunity, Right Role and Development.
Regular employee communications foster a culture of trust. Employees want honest feedback, want to believe and know their skills and contributions are valued and generally want to know what is going on in their company. Regular communications keeps employees connected and leads to less gossip and resulting miscommunications.
Opportunity is directly related to growth. If a company is growing, employees will naturally be engaged as it’s exciting to be in a growing company, especially in times where the economy has taken a toll on many companies and their workforces. From growth comes opportunity for employees to take on new roles, learn new skills, and experience job security in an otherwise unstable job market. Employees that see their job as a “dead-end” leave for other opportunities or worse, they stay and are disengaged many times contributing to morale problems in other employees. In times, when growth is slow, it is a great time to spend time developing our employees and preparing them for future growth.
Too often employees are hired into roles that are not right for them or are not even the roles described to them in the interview process. This happens for many reasons, including requirements of the job not defined accurately before recruiting began, urgency to fill the position or job requirements changing and not communicating with the employee or worse, assuming the employee is ok with the change. This often happens in contracting environments where employees are hired based on proposals with statements of work which can change between the time of hire and the date the actual work begins. This certainly does not lead an employee to gaining trust in the company they have joined.
Employees that believe their skills and contributions are valued are more satisfied in their roles and connected to their company. Developing employee skills leads to greater opportunities for job growth and promotion which enhances engagement and employee retention. Every employee should have an individualized development plan created by employee and manager together outlining objectives which are based on corporate/departmental goals and employee development objectives such as training.
Employees are a company’s greatest asset, so having employees that are engaged and focused on producing results that support corporate growth and objectives should be a priority for all companies. With the challenges of different generations in the workforce today, economic constraints and poor leadership, companies really have to focus on their strategic initiatives and talent strategies to ensure they are fostering a culture where employees can thrive, feel valued and will commit to the company and the company’s mission.