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Strategies for employee engagement

Murli Nambiar, May 2, 2012 :

Engaging the tweeting and Facebook driven workforce is the new challenge

Employee engagement strategy plays a vital role in motivating the performance levels of the workforce. A motivated employee will seek out ways to accomplish a task.

He will look at contributing his best at every new opportunity that comes in his way. Such employees realise the connection between their contribution and the company’s needs.

Today’s dynamic environment signifies that the nature of workforce is changing rapidly. A large number of staff today is young, energetic and tech savvy who are well-connected to their peers, friends and those who matter.

Social media platforms with their user-friendly and interactive features that help transcend geographies and cultural boundaries have ensured that this generation stays constantly connected.

Communicating with and engaging the tweeting and Facebook driven workforce is the new challenge.

Both employer and employee have an active role to play in cultivating engagement. Mutual understanding of context, expectations and innovations is an essential first step even more necessary when there is a generational gap.

Engagement has to be equal on both ends ie, the supervisor and employee. It is the key to retention of talent. The ever changing dynamics of the talent market have ensured that employers now compete for the best employees as well.

Recent surveys have reported that to attract, recruit, train and retain the best talent is possibly the single biggest predictor of corporate success.

The key ingredients of employee engagement are:

The nature of work - Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?

Support - Does the employee feel supported by his line manager and colleagues?

Recognition - Does the employee feel that his efforts are recognised and valued?

Loyalty - Does the employee wants to stay with the company and develop their career?

Advocacy - Is the employee willing to recommend their company to family and friends?

Values - Does the employee feel that managers and colleagues “walk the talk” in terms of the company’s values?

Today most organisations are focussing on employee engagement initiatives. Some keep their employees engaged through learning and initiatives, some by practising innovative HR initiatives and some others by passion.

Some of the initiatives commonly undertaken by HR departments towards employee engagement are:

On-boarding: When an employee joins the organisation he needs to be exposed to the organisations policies and culture. There may be some fresh out of campuses that need to know the basics of communication skills and job related skills.

During the induction programme itself, they can be given an exposure about these aspects, skills sets and the expectations. The on-boarding event experience itself leaves a mark on the minds of the new recruits about the company’s desire to enhance their skills.

Learning and development events: The business practices and processes are changing. In this environment, there is an acute necessity for enhancing the skill levels of employees already discharging various functions.

How quickly they adapt to the situation and new environment determines how fast the organisation can move forward to bring changes. If these skill gaps are not filled, the organisation will have to face a time lag which can hurt its business objectives.

Some of the commonly used channels are seminars, workshops, short-term training programmes and MDP’s. The training programmes should be so designed that the employee’s learning curve goes up and they should be able to take on new responsibilities or projects with higher competence levele can be done through picnics, outward bound learning programmes, adventure activities, employee get-togethers, quiz competitions, annual days and sports events. For some of the events, family members may be invited. When family members see that the organisation treats employees well and is keen to share good times, there is an automatic sense of bonding.

It is important for an organisation to know what drives its employees as they are the ones that own the company’s success. While a company may invest all its energy and resources in making it the best place to work, employee values and passion must be connected and aligned towards company goals to achieve organisational success.

The key to achieving excellence lies in ensuring that every employee has a passion to excel. Researchers have found that around 12 factors out of 35 different motivators influence employee work passion.

These twelve factors including meaningful work, collaborations, autonomy, growth, task variety, performance expectations, feedback, workload balance, distributive fairness, procedural fairness, connectedness with leaders, and connectedness with colleagues drive work passion. These cognitions and feelings lead to a sense of either positive or negative well being that in turn leads to purpose to act.

This intent to act is measured in five areas viz work commitment, organisation commitment, willingness to put extra effort, employee retention, willingness to recommend the organisation and its leaders to others.

Engagement levels

The organisations which believe in increasing employee engagement levels concentrate on the following levels:

Culture: It consists of a foundation of leadership, vision, values, effective communication, a strategic plan and HR policies that are focussed on the employee. Commitment - It is the foundation of engagement. Employees with high level of organisational commitment are willing to exert considerable effort for the organisation and make discretionary contributions.

Cooperation - It encompasses positive relationship among employees within a group. It is the inherent willingness of individuals working in a team to pull in the same direction and achieve organisational goals.

Taking responsibility - Taking initiative and responsibility to become a part of the solutions is an important ingredient of engagement. For an employee to display loyalty towards his organisation, the first thing he needs to do is to take responsibility. “Taking responsibility” refer to feeling empowered. Employees who feel empowered have a sense of belonging and excitement about their jobs, they feel engaged at an emotional level and are willing to give their best all the time. 

Advantages of engaged employees

Employee engagement levels have a direct impact on an employee’s performance and consequently on the company’s bottom-line. Engaged employees use their talent and strengths effectively at work every day to deliver high levels of performance consistently. At the same time, employees who are not engaged, not only erode the bottom-line with their lack of productivity, they also foster negativity at every opportunity, thus impacting team performance.

There is clear evidence that high level of employee engagement keenly correlates to individual, group and corporate performance in areas such as retention, turnover, productivity, customer service and loyalty. Some of the distinct advantages of engaged employees are:-

-They will perform better and are more motivated

-There is a significant link between employee engagement and profitability

-Engaged employees will stay with the company, be an advocate of the company and its products and services, and contribute to bottom line business success.

-Creates a sense of loyalty in a competitive environment.

-Provides a high energy working environment.

-Engaged employees serve as a brand ambassador of the organisation.

Measuring employee engagement

Since the last few years, employee engagement and its measurement is in vogue. In fact there is a definite correlation between employee engagement and desired business results whether it is customer service, retaining talent, individual performance, business productivity or even company level financial performance.

Employee referrals

Employee engagement is displayed in many ways like change in attrition rate, growth in productivity and business and employee referrals. There are different methods used for measuring employee engagement like interviewing individuals or groups in person, by telephone or through webinar conferencing, to get data relevant to employee engagement.

Some companies use focus groups to get perception, suggestions or feelings about employee engagement as the information gathered is qualitative and discussions are focussed.

Some utilise surveys containing a series of specially designed questions intended to collect appropriate data from a particular group. Methods are in their place, however, some are of the view that engagement surveys do not measure engagement, their results only show outcomes of engagement and action plans only target satisfaction and happiness. However, measuring employee engagement is essential and is recommended to be performed at regular intervals to track the engagement contribution to a company’s success.

(The writer is Head HR, Pearson Education Services)


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