Making a Business Case for Investing in Employee Engagement

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Jul 16, 2014

OK, C-level executive — I’m talking to you.

There’s a lot on your plate these days. You have to keep your organization afloat and make critical strategic business decisions that will ultimately shape the financial future of your firm.

However, if you’re overlooking one key element of your company’s operations, you could be missing out on the greatest opportunities to boost productivity and maximize performance. In the end, this aspect has some of the greatest impact on the bottom line.

Investing in your best assets

It’s not just about sourcing, product placement, market analysis and new technologies. At the heart of your business are the people who make it all happen — your employees.

Without talented, healthy workers, no organization can thrive for very long. Customer-facing team members make strong first impressions on visitors, determining whether they’ll be one-time customers or life-long patrons. Project contributors bring their creative insights, drawing on a unique history of experiences and ideas that no other worker can offer in exactly the same way. In short, people matter.

That’s why investing in your workers simply makes good business sense. Understanding what makes your team members tick, knowing how their experience at the company equates with their performance and implementing changes to create the most supportive, inspiring environment can set your organization apart from other employers and cause it to stand out to customers and clients as well.

What do the numbers say?

How does a 600 percent ROI sound? According to Gallup’s Business Journal, that’s the return Fabick CAT (a company that sells, rents, and repairs Caterpillar construction equipment) enjoyed when it invested $500,000 in its workers, turning a profit of about $3 million. The process starts with some solid analysis, but putting the right people in the best positions for their talents and ensuring they have the conditions they need to thrive can create waves that catalyze a business’s success and profits.

There’s more. Take wellness initiatives as an example, although other components of employee engagement have similar consequences.

As HR Magazine explained, there’s a strong business case to be made for health and well-being investments. The source noted that these initiatives directly impact absenteeism and workplace performance, which translates into financial results for the company.

In the United Kingdom, for example, a 2013 absence survey revealed that the total cost per on-leave employee was nearly £1,000 ($1.712 U.S). Similarly, the magazine noted that the U.K. economy lost about £15.1 billion (about $25.85 billion U.S.).

Similar outcomes can be expected across the globe, due to issues beyond health concerns. Disengaged, unmotivated workers are hardly contributing in top form, though employers must continue to pay them at the same rate as workers who are putting forth their full energies and attention.

If you want to mitigate, measure

In order to address such issues and optimize your workforce, you need to start with the facts. As HR Magazine reported, Amanda Young, head of responsible investment at Standard Life Investments and a member of the PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment), emphasized the importance of measuring the state of your workforce so you can effectively implement policies to maximize performance, job satisfaction and employee retention.

“What is measured is managed,” she said. “If a company is measuring something, there’s a sense there is some sort of management thinking. All companies will stand up and say: ‘Our employees are our greatest asset.’ But there’s silence after that.”

To overcome this silence and put the metrics you need at your fingertips, a survey is a good first step. But be warned; employee engagement surveys are a waste of time and money if you do nothing with the results.

The end goal is to make change so you end up with employees who are happier and work harder, your customers are satisfied, and your business is more profitable. The survey should be the first chapter in what becomes a larger employee engagement story.

Read more from David Bator on his blog: Beyond the Employee Survey