Does each of your employees know how their job contributes to the big picture? Are you truly interested in their input? The answers too often are no to both of these questions, which is bad for employers. An employer with an engaged workforce can experience higher productivity, higher profitability, and lower absenteeism and turnover rates.
A big problem in today’s workplace is that employees often don’t see how they matter. Some managers point to employee indifference and an unwillingness to go the extra mile as major challenges. But the problem sometimes rests with the managers themselves. Managers don’t always understand what truly motivates people. When employees experience defeat over and over, that can lead to “learned helplessness” or apathy. Employees are taught not to care or take initiative. There are a number of ways in which managers themselves create this condition, including:
- Leaving employees in the dark about what’s going on;
- Creating unrealistic deadlines and demands;
- Impeding employee ideas;
- Creating a culture where input is not solicited.
Employees with lower engagement are four times more likely to leave their jobs. Engagement is an emotional connection. Employees can be your brand ambassadors so it’s important to keep them engaged. Engagement also helps on the hiring and retention side.
If organizations want their employees to have their heart and soul in their work, then they need to engage their heart and soul. According to a Gallup survey in 2016, 51% of the American workforce is disengaged and 17% is actively disengaged.
Engaging with employees
There are misconceptions about what employee engagement means. Engagement is helping an employee reach their potential while making sure they help the business too. A SHRM report describes engaged behavior as “persistent, proactive and adaptive in ways that expand the job roles as necessary.”
Engagement is often influenced and controlled by an employee’s manager or supervisors through job assignments, feedback and recognition. Managers can take the following steps to take to make it more likely their employees will go the extra mile, including:
- Involve employees in problem-solving and improvements;
- Make appreciation part of your culture;
- Celebrate the awesome (“Here’s what we mean by great customer service!”); and
- Show you care about your employees as human beings.
In today’s culture, an employee engagement problem can soon be on social media for all the world to see. Glassdoor has become a popular vehicle for rating companies, but many managers dismiss low ratings as the complaints of a couple of disgruntled employees rather than an important engagement issue. According to data from Corporate Responsibility Magazine, 69% of job seekers will not accept a job offer from a company with a bad reputation even if unemployed. It’s no different than selecting a restaurant. Organizations need to take low ratings seriously.
Surveys are the first step
An employee engagement survey is designed to help HR and senior leadership understand perceptions of the employer’s work environment and the extent to which the employees are engaged with and committed to this environment. It is recommended that HR gain the commitment of the employer’s senior leadership to use and act on the survey data prior to undertaking the survey process.
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More focused than a typically broad employee satisfaction survey, the employee engagement survey helps an employer determine the degree to which the employer enables its workforce to be productive, enthused and focused on making a difference. The survey can be used to help track changes in employee perceptions over time, which is particularly valuable as the employer implements programs and practices designed to positively impact employee commitment and engagement.
What a survey should be
The survey should be straightforward and easy to understand, administer and analyze. A 5-point scale is recommended to allow for gradations in perceptions (versus a series of “Yes-No” questions). Survey administration must protect employee confidentiality. Electronic administration, using outside data capture and analysis (for example, internet-based Survey Monkey or Zoomerang), is desirable. Employers should keep the survey title simple and avoid the term engagement, which could be confusing to respondents.
Data should be analyzed for overall trends across all respondents, and, if relevant, broken down by large, intact departments, organizational units and/or demographic groups. HR should be responsible for administration, data analysis and reporting. The analysis should focus on a comparison between responses of “engaged” employees (who consistently strongly agree or agree), and responses of those who are “disengaged” (consistently disagree or strongly disagree). Results should be reported to HR and senior leadership, with employees being apprised of changes that are triggered by the survey input.
Improving employee engagement should be viewed as an ongoing process, with a number of diverse campaigns and initiatives, including an employee engagement survey.