Many businesses and charities now are interested in “employee engagement” and maybe it’s simply down to the fact that employers want “engaged employees” because they deliver improved business performance. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research has repeatedly demonstrated the strong link between the way people are managed and overall business performance.
Employers want employees who will do their best work or ‘go the extra mile’. The quid pro quo is that employees want jobs and careers that are worthwhile and that inspire them. Organisations are looking for a win-win solution that meets their needs and those of their employees.
So what is employee engagement? It can be seen as a combination of commitment to the organisation and its values and a willingness to help out colleagues, sometimes referred to as organisational citizenship. It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer: it cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract.
The CIPD recently launched its Engage for Success programme and have published a report called Creating an Engaged Workforce which looks at the organisation-wide issues that contribute to or detract from employee engagement in different settings. Some of the factors which employees valued as part of their engagement and commitment to the organisation included:-
- having opportunities to feed their views upwards
- feeling well-informed about what is happening in the organisation
- believing that their manager is committed to the organisation
- involvement in decision-making
- freedom to voice ideas, to which managers listen
- feeling enabled to perform well
- having opportunities to develop the job
- feeling the organisation is concerned for employees’ health and well-being.
So how can you build an engaged workforce? Well, you first need to be sure that you want “engaged employees”. It may seem a ridiculous question but if you raise expectations that you want employees ideas, their commitment and additional contributions but have no way of recognising their extra effort, any initiative is likely to backfire.
Once you are committed to improving employee engagement the first step is to measure employee attitudes. Many large employers, both private and public, now conduct regular employee attitude surveys. The results typically show what employees feel about their work on a range of dimensions including, for example, pay and benefits, communications, learning and development, line management and work-life balance. Attitude survey data can be used to identify areas for improvement. In smaller organisations it may be more obvious where there is strong employee engagement and easier to identify what may need to change, but some strong objective analysis is recommended.
The drive for an engaged workforce needs to build on good people management strategies and policies which are aligned with the wider business and with the active support of line managers. There is no short-cut to building and maintaining employee engagement but the time, effort and resource required will be amply repaid by the performance benefits.
Please contact me if you would like to know more about the report and what its implications are for your organisation.
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