Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

Employee engagement as a concept has become increasingly mainstream in management thinking over the last decade. It proposes a ‘mutual gains’ employment relationship, creating a win-win for employees and their employers. It’s usually seen as an internal state of being, both physical, mental and emotional, but many also view it as encompassing behaviour and in particular work effort. Typical phrases used in employee engagement writing include discretionary effort, going the extra mile, feeling valued and passion for work.

Employers want engaged employees because, as well as being happier, healthier and more fulfilled, they deliver improved business performance. Research has repeatedly pointed to a relationship between how people are managed, their attitudes and behaviour, and business performance. Positive relationships are evidenced with profit, revenue growth, customer satisfaction, productivity, innovation, staff retention, efficiency and health and safety performance.

Another area of potential benefit relates to organisational brand and reputation. Engaged employees will be stronger advocates of their organisations and help protect the employer from the reputational risks associated with poor service levels or product quality.

Conversely, having a disengaged workforce brings huge risks. As well as productivity losses, organisations may lose their best people and face huge difficulties when embedding organisational change if employees are not on board. Disengagement also threatens effective collaboration, innovation and human capital management, as employees will not be inclined to use their tacit knowledge and skills for the good of the organisation.

Research consistently shows that there are four key elements in developing effective employee engagement:

  • Leadership that gives a ‘strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going’.
  • Line managers who motivate, empower and support their employees.
  • Employee voice throughout the organisation, to challenge or reinforce the status quo and involve employees in decision making.
  • ‘Organisational integrity’: stated values are embedded into organisational culture; what we say is what we do.

Employee engagement has to be organisation specific. What makes people tick, what gripes they have, the challenges to and opportunities for fostering employee engagement will all vary with an organisation’s culture.

The drive for an engaged workforce builds on good people management and learning and development practices. Successful employee engagement strategies need the active support of senior leaders and line managers. They should be holistic and align organisational purpose, vision and values with job roles, communications, management systems and team building or cross-organisational events. However, there is no shortcut to building and supporting employee engagement.