Employee engagement

Saturday, 17 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Employee engagement is a workplace concept designed to ensure that employees are committed to organisational goals and values, motivated to make contributions to the organisational success, and are able to augment their own sense of well-being. Although there are differences between attitude, behaviour and outcomes in terms of engagement, these are parts of the whole concept.  An employee might feel pride and loyalty, be a great advocate of their company to clients or go the extra mile to finish a piece of work. Outcomes may include lower accident rates, higher productivity, fewer conflicts, more innovation, lower numbers leaving and reduced sickness rates. There is a virtuous circle when the pre-conditions of engagement are met when these three aspects of engagement trigger and reinforce one another. Companies that have understood the conditions that enhance employee engagement have created a work culture which competitors will find very difficult to imitate. Engaged employees will be key to competitive advantage with changing nature of work and diversity of workforce. When employees are engaged, they become more motivated to contribute to the organisation’s success and more willing to put in extra effort to accomplish tasks that are central to the corporate goals. Engagement is two-way process. Organisations must work towards achieving the engagement of the employee, who in turn has a choice about the level of engagement to offer the organisation. Each reinforces the other. What do employees want? For years, employers have focused on the tired old habit of handing out perks such as pay raises, performance bonuses and extra vacation times. Two decades of research shows that while these motivators aren’t necessarily bad ideas, dangling carrots like these haven’t created a sustained shift in employee engagement and productivity. Employees want purpose, not just a hefty paycheque and regular bonuses. They want to know what they are doing on a daily basis and the purpose behind it. “What people want most is the chance to make a difference,” says Alexander Hiam, the Massachusetts-based author of ‘Business Innovation For Dummies’. Employees want goals. Organisations must make sure to lay out a clearly-defined set of goals for them on a regular basis. For the sales team, for example, that might mean setting a goal as to the number of deals the team is expected to close in a certain period of time for a certain dollar amount. Once goals are in place, it is up to each team to decide how to achieve them. They want responsibilities. Being a manager, you may feel delegating is the hardest thing to do, but you should delegate as the employee crave trust, and with that trust, should come responsibility. Employees want autonomy. To make your employees to live up to their full potential, it’s not enough that they do what you tell them to do and they work hard and meet deadlines because you asked them to do and you are keeping an eye on them. Ideally, you want the members of your team to see that the goals they are pursuing have real value. Employees want attention. By giving the control employees crave doesn’t mean they don’t want guidance and feedback. You have to check in with them every few weeks, even if it’s just for a minute or two. Spend time and see how things are going. Find out what’s really going on in their world. Employees want opportunities for innovation. Not long ago, Google announced its 20% creative time policy, which encourages employees to work on any innovative ideas they have that are company-related during 20% of their hours at work. Employees need to be given a chance to come up with creative ideas. Employees want open-mindedness. You need to treat employees with equal parts sensitivity and honesty when they come to you with their ideas. You don’t have to accept every idea that comes your way. You can simply ask them to give some more thought to their idea, and come back if they think they can make it work. Employees want transparency. Employees learn more about the organisation and can grow to work towards solving problems faster when their leaders are transparent. As a leader, you can make their day or break their day. Other than the decisions individuals make on their own about liking their work, senior management and supervisors are the most powerful factor in employee motivation and morale. Get to know them as individuals. Do you feel like you’re too busy to take the time to get to know your employees? Then, think again. If you can develop a stronger relationship with your employees, you’ll have a better sense of what makes them tick and they’ll also like you more and will be more motivated to work for you as a result. “Effective leadership requires that you understand people’s perspectives, their hopes and dreams and that you present them with a challenge that leads them in the direction where they want to be moving anyway” – Daniel Goleman Be accessible. Just 44% of employees agreed that senior management tried to be visible and accessible (Towers Perrin, 2007). Walk the talk. Only 41% of employees say the day-to-day actions of management are consistent with their words (The Hay Group). Get out of your office. The informal workplace walk-around is one of most effective methods to get to know and engage employees. You should never assume, always try to get the facts and be interested in the truth. Leaders can facilitate annual employee engagement surveys that can establish a benchmark and set goals to focus on and improve year-on-year. This works best when senior management is committed and cares about the organisation’s engagement levels. Be interested in employees’ perceptions about stress-producing factors such as workplace demands, working conditions, communications effectiveness, safety, and peer and manager relationships. Effective leaders understand that employees’ perceptions of their company’s corporate culture influence the organisation’s ability to mature to its full potential. You can use following steps can be taken to influence your staff members engagement: Get the facts and be open to them: The more a leader can see the world through their employees’ eyes, the greater the opportunity for honest two-way communications. If something needs to be improved: Instead of saying that you will do something about it, think, write and implement an action plan. Measure your progress and be cautious. Evaluate your leadership: Leaders who can engage employees do so through communication, consistency, integrity, and showing that employees matter. These leaders acknowledge and are grateful for good work. Understand that engagement is not a survey, it’s daily action. Believe in that your actions make a difference. Get involved with your teams every day and show that you’re interested in what they do. Pay attention to your words: Audit yourself for 10 business days and count the number of times you praise good work versus correct behaviour. See employees doing good work and acknowledge it authentically. They will know whether you’re being truthful. Accept that engagement is a dynamic process. There is no goal line; it’s a moving target that requires constant attention, commitment and action. However, the payoff is huge. Engaged employees are more likely to want to do their best work every day. They are more likely to love the workplace and engage in behaviour that benefits themselves, the organisation and their communities. (Dr. Nalin Jayasuriya (DBA, California, USA) is a much sought-after business and management consultant. He is also a management trainer of international repute. Dr. Nalin was a visiting lecturer to the Marketing Institute of Singapore, addressed the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Selangor on three occasions, addressed the CEO Forum in Brisbane, Australia and has presented management papers in the USA, UK, Greece, Poland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, India,  Kenya, Dubai and Pakistan. Dr. Nalin has trained over 5,000 senior managers in over 15 countries since 1988. He has been a consultant to Airport and Aviation Services, Ceylon Electricity Board, SriLankan Airlines, SLTPB – Ministry of Tourism and to several multinational and blue-chip companies in Sri Lanka. He was co-consultant to set up the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the first multi-sector regulatory agency in Asia. Dr. Jayasuriya has led consultancy assignments for the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNDP, Institute of World Problems (USA) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.)

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