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A Shared Sense of Direction

What does great employee engagement look like? 

Good question. And one that we are always exploring. We get great exposure to some places where good employee engagement is spot on and driving productivity, customer service people retention. We also see places where it is not so good. There are multiple articles out there, including this piece by HR Magazine, which define why employee disengagement matters and its ramifications throughout a business*1. We want to focus on what makes great employee engagement. The strongest take-away, in all the sectors we work across, is that great employee engagement encourages, drives, and motivates people to behave in positive ways. 

Simple to say. How can you practically achieve this? One way is to put yourself in the mindset of your employees and consider five key questions: 

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Realistically, each question is a massive subject – and organisations face many other complex challenges too. Understanding the essence behind the questions and being able to answer them for a group of employees, will help organisations to move forwards. So, let’s kick off with the first two. They are nicely interlinked and naturally lend themselves to being discussed together. 

What does an engaged employee look like? 

An employee who understands the strategy and approach of the company they work for, while also being emotionally invested in what the company is trying to achieve, is an engaged employee. Love that in this piece they suggest: 

“Being engaged at work is like having a superpower.”*2 

Who doesn’t want to feel like they have a superpower, particularly at work? Engaged people are the ones who are motivated and focused, while feeling fully supported by those around them. Bearing this in mind, who are you talking to in your business?  

Businesses tend to have their recognised top performers. A pool of people who probably form the top 20%. As they are already engaged, it is important to take them with you, continue with what you are doing and keep them onboard. At the other end of the scale - the bottom 20% tier - may take significant investment in both time and money to change attitudes and behaviours. Give them the chance to get on board. The middle cohort are your key audience. Around 60% of your people are reasonably, engaged. Their performance is likely to be satisfactory, perhaps not great. They may aspire to being better performers, more engaged and more effective. 

What do you want your employees to do and why?  

Organisations invest heavily in bringing their products and services to market. Investment is made at every stage, from research, innovation, development, to marketing. Yet once that ‘next greatest thing’ is created, many businesses fail to let their people know about that new product or service and the promises that have been made in it’s marketing and advertising. How can they possibly understand what you want them to do or believe in? Ensuring your messaging is instilled in them too, means it will pass right the way through to the customer and their experience. Companies therefore need to review their commitment to investing in internal communications, alongside what they invest in new product and services. 

What motivates employees? 

Understanding them. Simply understanding their needs, providing inspiration, appreciating their personal motivations, and communicating clearly what the business needs from them. Employees are not motivated by pay and conditions alone; their motivation stems from a variety of desires and aspirations. However, as we have suggested above and in one of our blogs*3, to drive performance ALL hearts and minds need to be engaged, not just the top percentage. This means it cannot be done in a half-hearted way.  

Employers should look to clearly communicate company goals and objectives, performance, and how each worker is personally contributing to the business’s success. Doing this can lead to upwards of 70% of employees having a favourable view of their company and thinking the best is still to come*4. The emphasis is deliberately upon the managers. Employees often look to their managers to obtain the information they need to do their jobs. So, given the potential impact on the company’s reputation, ensuring managers are equipped with the skills needed to effectively communicate is an essential ingredient in today’s workplace. 

Take them on the journey. Invest time with them, while equipping them with the knowledge and skills to deliver on your promise. Use your managers to share information in ways that resonate with their team. Using empathic communication, or using the principles outlined in accessible, quick to adopt training such as our Em-Path approach will go a long way towards motivating employees to achieve company goals. 

What does good employee engagement look like in practice?  

To make change happen, you need to communicate. And not just as a one-off. Communication should be regular. In our experience there is no such thing as over-communicating. People need to understand the importance and rationale of what you are asking them to do. Where it all fits into the company’s ethos. It is not as simple as them just taking it on face value that you have asked them and therefore, they should do it. The challenge here is exacerbated by the rise in remote and hybrid working. The impact of which has recently been revealed with an estimation that 7.47 hours a week are lost due to poor communication*5. Not much short of a whole working day and that equates to a lot of money if you then pro-rata it based on salary costs and number of employees. In addition, traditional, on-going conversations have increasingly been replaced by email, chat tools and video calls*6. This cluttering and remoteness of communication makes it more difficult for employees to connect with how their personal work output fits into an organisation’s goals. 

That is exactly where a culture of engagement is needed. Create an environment where your teams are connected to and inspired by your company’s purpose. Make them feel they can be part of it and have a voice. Think about the engagement journey and how you are going to take your people with you, then from this you can establish a cohesive and thought-out plan. Now is not the time to send out an email, expect them to read it and act upon it. The most visually appealing and most amazing email will not make things happen on its own. Employees need to know the direction of travel and have the map in their heads.  

Four ways to start successfully engaging with your employees  

According to Gallup research, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work*7. Little wonder then that many don’t feel they have a clear understanding of what’s required of them or how they fit in to the company’s purpose. With clear expectations; employees thrive.  

In studying 31 million employees over the past forty years, Gallup believe there are some key foundational elements of employee engagement that should be adopted when setting expectations*7:  

Create what the expectations should be together – gather employees’ thoughts and then together agree on role expectations, so they feel part of the overall success. 

Clearly spell out what the expectations are – make sure they are communicated in a transparent way, talk openly about them and be receptive to two-way conversations. 

Focus on the positive – talk about positive traits and what your top performers are doing differently to encourage these behaviours and bring out the best in others. 

Recognise people are individuals – enable them to play to their strengths by encouraging managers to appreciate and understand what comes naturally to each member of their teams. 

Nurturing the skills that managers need, through coaching techniques, such as Continue and Begin Fast Coaching®, will create positive conversations, that make people feel good. When people feel good, they feel more resourceful, motivated, and confident. 

Time to move away from the negative workplace factors harming your employee engagement?  

The answer is likely to be ‘yes’. And no wonder when you also factor in its impact on employee retention and its influence on the Great Resignation. In fact, as highlighted in HR News recent indications from Bupa UK are alluding to lack of engagement and poor internal communication impacting on people’s wellbeing too.*8 

Gallup, in a study of over 49 thousand business units with 1.2 million employees across 45 countries, found that, where 90% of departments communicated clearly to employees what was expected of them, they saw the following increases in performance*7

10% to 19% increase in sales

14% to 29% increase in profit

3% to 7% higher customer engagement

6% to 16% lower turnover (low-turnover organisations)

26% to 72% lower turnover (high-turnover organisations)

22% to 59% fewer safety incidents

9% to 15% increase in engaged employees 

While the top 20% are already engaged and onboard, just imagine the power of shifting the performance needle of the middle 60%. However, this is only the start of the internal communications journey. Employee engagement should build on expand into the other areas we alluded to at the beginning. Where everyone learns how they can do what is being asked of them; how they are doing it and what is in it for them.  

 

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Find out in our next post, how getting more of your team closer to the top 20% performers will have a big impact. 

Sources: 

*1 https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/comment/how-to-solve-employee-disengagement-in-the-virtual-workplace   

*2 https://www.drpgroup.com/en/blog/employee-engagement-what-does-good-look-like  

*3 https://blog.themotivationagency-online.com/rewarding-performance-its-not-about-where-on-this-planet-you-take-people 

*4 https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8095-effective-employee-communication.html 

*5 https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/comment/tackling-the-human-cost-of-the-dark-matter-of-work 

*6 https://www.fastcompany.com/90770302/why-business-communications-in-2022-dont-have-to-be-problematic  

*7 https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/195803/employees-really-know-expected.aspx 

*8 https://hrnews.co.uk/5-negative-workplace-factors-harming-your-employee-retention-in-2022/ 

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