Enablement & Energy: 2 Key Factors to Sustainable Employee Engagement

© Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com
© Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

Abhishek Mittal, a Towers Watson management consultant based in Singapore, is one of my go-to sources for on-point research and thinking on employee engagement and, critically, how to apply that research and thinking in practice in the organization. A recent post in his Mumblr blog linked to an article he published in Indian Management magazine.

I was most taken with the Towers Watson research he reported showing the difference between Engagement and Sustainable Engagement, which relies on two additional factors of enablement and energy.

We are now learning that employee engagement takes a company only so far. Other critical factors in the work environment also play a critical role.

Firstly, organizations should look at providing support to employees in achieving their work objectives. Secondly, organizations should focus on creating a work environment that fosters employees’ physical, social and emotional well-being. We call these factors Enablement and Energy respectively. Taken together, these can help organizations sustainably engage their employees and boost business performance further. This new framework called “Sustainable Engagement” is a combination of Engagement, Enablement and Energy. A recent validation research done by Towers Watson looked at companies with high levels of Engagement and those with high levels of Sustainable Engagement. We examined their financial performance in terms of operating margins and found that Sustainably Engaged companies on operating margins by a factor of 2-1.” (emphasis mine)

Considering earlier Towers Watson research found that organizations that increase engagement by 15 percent improve operating margins by 2 percent, such an additional increase from Sustainable Engagement is something to take quite seriously, indeed.

I’ve written about enablement elsewhere several times, but this topic of energy is just as important.

Energy in the workplace

Energy and energizing the workforce is a passion of mine and my CEO, Eric Mosley. But precisely how do you energize a workforce?

In his article, Abhishek suggests:

Companies need to focus on building a work environment that can sustain high energy levels. For example –respectful treatment of colleagues, effective teamwork and a fair balance between performance expectations and job pressures.”

“Respectful treatment of colleagues” – we all think we know that looks like. I’m sure we all know how we would each want to be treated respectfully ourselves. But how do you measure that? How do you know that respectful treatment is actually happening? Because if you can’t measure it, you can’t intervene to fix it in underperforming areas.

Measuring energy

We’ve addressed this internally at Globoforce by making “Respect” one of our four core values as an organization. Indeed, respect is a unique value for us in that it is the only one directly focused on behaviors. (The three others – imagination, determination, and innovation – we consider to be aspirational.)

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Within our own employee recognition program, Globostars, employees must select a reason for recognition from these four values. We believe so powerfully in the importance of respect that we’ve broken it into several factors such as “respect for teamwork” and “respect for urgency.”

It’s quite powerful to look at our Social Recognition news feed and see the flow of respect throughout Globoforce, across teams and departments. Even better, we can measure it. We can look deeply into our metrics to see where, perhaps, teams or individuals have never been recognized for respect and determine if that’s an anomaly or an area needing intervention and training.

This is just one aspect of how we measure energy in our workplace. Do you measure energy? Do you think it’s important?

What core values does your organization have that could serve as a measure of energy if employees were encouraged to recognize each other for demonstrating that value regularly?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.