Author: Danielle Brown
So here we are – another year. 2016 is now in full swing, and with it comes the rush of all our goals and ambitions. Being new to the bunch team I am SUPER eager to get into my new position and understand the factors that are really going to contribute to Bunch’s success this year.
As ‘Engaging People’ is fundamental to what we do (and as I am a massive nerd for all things research, business and psychology), it seems fitting for me to review one of the most researched topics in Organisational Psychology through my new Bunch lens – Employee Engagement.
Yes, it’s harped on about constantly, but for good reason! Research indicates that organisations with high levels of employee engagement report a 22% higher productivity rate and double the rate of success than that of lower engaged organisations. We know engaged employees tend to be less likely to suffer from health problems, as well as typically experiencing more moments of happiness and fewer moments of stress and sadness during the course of their workday. To me, that’s exciting stuff!
“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”
– Simon Sinek
In some instances disengaged workers cost an organisation up to 85% more per month in lost productivity. In numerical terms, this could equate to thousands of dollars in lost productivity per year.
Maybe hearing this information is no great revelation to you, or maybe you don’t get quite as excited by research as I do, but if you’re honest, how much time have you spent crafting and implementing your engagement strategies in the past?
So what can you do to make progress? There are four quick recommendations that we would suggest. I will cover two of those recommendations today and detail the rest in Part 2.
- Understand What Engagement Can Do For You and What Engaged Employees Look Like.
A recent Harvard Business Review surveyed 568 respondents from best-in-class companies and highlighted that these business leaders considered employee engagement as one of three top factors crucial to their organisational success.
So what does good employee engagement look like, and how can it translate into real long-term business results?
Employee Engagement means much more than just happy employees. It means employees that:
- Understand their role and how it connects to the bigger picture
- Are motivated to achieve organisational goals
- Are committed to their workplace and the team
- Are not spending 5 hours of their 8 hour work day on Seek.com looking for alternatives
“Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their co-workers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organisation.” (Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research)
To make the commitment to understanding how engagement could work within your organisation you will need to start by looking at your organisation’s current level of employee engagement. This brings us to point two.
- Understand what your employees are really thinking
“Companies that nail employee engagement understand that motivating high performance and aligning talent with business strategy requires getting to the heart of what matters to employees” – Sylvia Vorhauser Smith
Much to my disappointment, the truth is that people can fake engagement (*shock! Horror!* “No Dani, say it isn’t so.”) Firstly, there is often a significant disconnect between what management perceive as levels of frontline employee engagement. Often upper management is in a state of disillusion, thinking that their organisation is highly engaged when in reality it is not, whereas middle managers seem to have a much more realistic outlook.
Secondly, while employee surveys are a fairly straight forward and cost effective way of gauging employee engagement, they’re certainly not fool proof. Employees can fake it to feel secure in their position. Companies who are really kicking goals in the domain of engagement spend a considerable amount of time crafting how they directly seek answers from employees, and subsequently use this data to create realistic improvements to overall business performance.
In some instances we may simply not consciously know our opinion to the questions being asked. Malcolm Gladwell articulates this point well in his TED talk Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce. In the same way we can’t always explain what we like and what we don’t like without having tried it, sometimes our self-report measures can be highly inaccurate.
Through my new Bunch lens I wonder what to make of this. It may be more useful to incorporate a range of tactics, including observing behavioural indicators, or what your employees are saying about your organisation online. Employee interviews and/or focus groups are another useful metric, especially when they’re conducted by an external provider that enables employees to share honest feedback with someone separate from their working environment.
Thinking about it, if you were really clever you might even be able to devise some kind of implicit association’s test – the kind that looks at unconscious attitudes through rapid response rates (I know… I need to invest in a better pass time lol)… but I digress. In essence it is important to use a variety of indicators and never, ever put this one in the too hard basket, it’s just too valuable.
Share with us what ways you measure employee engagement, what you find frustrating and what you find useful. Let’s start a conversation. I’m almost certain I’ll have a piece of research about it… somewhere.
Next week we will be taking a look at how to incorporate these measures into your organisational strategy, and articulate them effectively to you team, as well as engagement strategies and tactics that work. You may be surprised to know that financial bonuses can actually cause your employees to be less engaged! To be continued…