According to Bersin by Deloitte, “employee engagement (by 2016) has become the top issue on the minds of business leaders, directing us to an entirely new model of management”.
Firstly, we need to understand what Employee Engagement is, why it is growing in importance and how do we develop it. As important is the need to be able to measure it. It can be difficult to quantify, but without knowing where we are, it is hard to move forward
The Institute of Employment Studies defines Employee Engagement as:
‘a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.’
It’s not so different to the notion of “discretionary effort” which lies at the heart of most leadership theory and practice. Discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, above and beyond the call of duty. The important thing there is that they give this effort willingly and without the feeling of imposition.
This immediately suggests that leadership is therefore a key factor in developing employee engagement. However, the Institute of Employment studies makes another vital point. Employee Engagement is a two-way relationship: organisations must work to engage the employee, who in turn has a choice about the level of engagement they will offer.
Some employees approach a job as if it were simply something they have to do to fulfil a requirement to be paid. Others engage much more fully. Willing to ‘go the extra mile’ , being at times prepared to do what is needed even if it inconveniences them
The advantages of engagement for organisations are clear. Engaged employees enable organisations to perform better. In a competitive world. Engaged employees create a “can do” positive culture
Engaged employees also create a more responsive and flexible organisation. Important for this so called VUCA world we now inhabit.
For employees, there are also clear benefits to engagement.
Employees feel more engaged with the organisations purpose and objectives and understand their role better and how it contributes to organisational success. This enables a sense of achievement to be realised (and acknowledged).
Well-directed employee engagement enables staff to feel they are fully part of the team.
A key element of employee engagement is personal growth, acquiring new skills and developing a sense of control over their life and their work.
Good leadership has a major role to play here. In our work we have observed carefully what the very best leaders do to create employee engagement.
The outcome suggests that the best leaders do three key things and do them well:
- Determination to deliver. Leaders show determination to deliver the purpose and objectives of the organisation. Visible, well-communicated and authentic this is fundamental to building trust.
Interestingly, our work shows that even when it is uncomfortable to do so, staff prefer to follow a leader who knows where he/she is going than a leader who doesn’t or who says one thing and then does another.
- Engage with employees. For a better response from staff, then be aware of their needs to be able to respond and provide recognition when they do what is expected, especially when it surprises you.
- Engage with team working. This is employee engagement in another important sense. This is not just team working in my team but teamworking across the organisation. The organisation is one team.
Doug Strycharczyk is AQR International CEO and Professor Peter Clough, Psychology, University of Huddersfield, UK. This is an extract from their article “Employee Engagement in the 21st Century– no longer nice to have but essential”. For go to http://bit.ly/2tOLKwX