Employee engagement

by Hayley Oats and Vandy Massey

In a nutshell

1. What is employee engagement?

This is a much-debated question, but in essence a sense of engagement is something that the employee has to offer. In other words, it’s not something you can require as part of the employment contract. The common behaviours of an engaged employee are:

  • Commitment to achieving organisational goals, plus being prepared to go the extra mile and undertake ongoing personal development
  • A willingness to be open and honest, giving and taking feedback
  • Having an honest belief in the organisation and supporting the team.

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2. Why should we engage our employees?

Employee engagement leads to

  • A reduced turnover in staff and therefore recruitment costs
  • An increase in the number of high-calibre applicants
  • Lower absence rates
  • A possible 20 per cent increase in staff productivity
  • Better customer service
  • Greater efficiency
  • An increase in bottom line revenue
  • Better brand experience and message
  • An increase in discretionary effort and lower overtime costs
  • Fewer/no staff complaints and disciplinary/capability issues.

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3. Where to start

The first step is to measure employee attitudes. This gives a benchmark and, where structured to your organisational needs, will provide a clear and rapid line of sight to the areas that require improvement.

  • Conduct a confidential survey to discover employee attitudes.
  • Conduct open discussions based on findings from the survey, probing gently to avoid eliciting aggressive or defensive responses.
  • If you have high levels of response when feedback is requested and low levels of absenteeism, staff turnover and waste, these are signs of employee engagement.
  • Management support is critical to any plans to raise levels of employee engagement.

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4. How to engage your team

Employee engagement is not only affected by how the organisation as a whole treats and values its staff, but by all the interactions an employee has in the work place. Managers have a significant impact on employee engagement; they play a key role in sustaining it and undoubtedly can turn it off.

  • Talk to your team about what’s happening in the business, about work in the team and, importantly, about them as individuals. Get to know your team members and what is important to them.
  • Remember they are unique – don’t expect them to feel or want the same things as you.
  • Ensure you are available to members of your team when they need you.
  • Have fun!
  • Actively support their development.

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5. How to engage a disengaged team

Working with a disengaged team is hard; it makes the life of the manager much busier and more complex than it needs to be. Often, disengaged employees make more complaints, whinge and moan more, and struggle to deliver productivity at the expected levels, let alone strive to exceed them.

  • A good place to start is with an anonymous survey, so you find out what is wrong.
  • Share the results with them.
  • Be realistic and honest about what you can and cannot promise and keep working at it.

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