Do you know that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between US$450 billion to US$550 billion each year in lost productivity? According to a Gallup report, they are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away. It all comes down to the lack of employee engagement.
Organisations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147% higher earnings per share (EPS) compared with their competition in 2011-2012. In contrast, those with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2% lower EPS compared with their competitors.
These alarming figures indicate the significant role of employee engagement in today’s businesses, especially ones with a large number of millennials.
In the Singapore workforce today, there are 1.2 million millennials, or 22% of the resident population, according to HR consultancy Aon Hewitt. Their happiness is primarily based on something that seems, to previous generations, vague and abstract: employee engagement.
Career expectations and aspirations of millennials differ tremendously from any other previous generation. They demand more engagement, instant feedback and are extremely tech-savvy. Millennials want more work/life balance and harbour ambitions to make giant leaps in career progression based on results, not tenure. Therefore, they tend to change jobs, or “loyalty-lite,” with over a quarter now expect to have six employers or more, according to PWC research. Employee engagement is one of the key things that keep they stay in a place.
Thus, to help you and your company increase productivity and keep your millennial workers, we developed this 2017 Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement. We hope you would enjoy it.
1.What Is Employee Engagement?
Gallup defines “engaged” employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and contribute to their organisation in a positive manner.
Many confuse engagement with job satisfaction or happiness and, while they are essential elements of engagement, neither can be equated to what defines employee engagement as a whole.
Engagement is an abstract concept, and there are many definitions of employee engagement floating around out there, but they all centre around two factors — emotional connection and performance.
Employee engagement specialist Emma Bridger defines employee engagement as the extent to which people are personally involved in the success of the business.
The theory is that engaged employees will put in 150% because they feel a strong emotional connection to the organisation on a personal level. The success of the business, in this scenario, would be an extension of their own and vice versa. It is personal, like seeing a friend or a family member succeeding.
No matter what naysayers say about the importance or relevance of the idea of employee engagement, one thing is irrefutable: Engaged employees are happy, committed and satisfied with their work.
It doesn’t mean that disengaged employees don’t feel happy at work. Many people quite happily clock in, clock out every day, take their paycheques and do just enough, no more, no less.
Happy, disengaged employees are rarely inspired to go above and beyond. While they may complete the tasks required, they will not feel any motivation to go the extra mile. And that is what makes the difference.
Engaged employees will have a strong sense of belonging to their organisation and feel part of it on an emotional level.
For this to happen, their roles need to be clearly defined and there must be a full and profound understanding of their contribution to the company. Employees will then feel connected to their team and the larger organisation, instead of feeling like a mere cog in a gigantic machine.
2.Why Should I care – The ROI Of Engagement
Let’s face it. The question of “Why should I care?” is on every pre-millennials’ mind. Many of the so-called “older generations” may feel exasperated, reminiscing the “good ole days” when people just came in, did their jobs well and plugged away at it for years on end without much complaint.
They may also wonder what companies get in return for pandering to millennials’ seemingly endless needs. What exactly is the return on investment of this notion of engagement?
First and foremost, millennials will soon become the majority of your workforce, so you can’t just turn a blind eye to their role in your future. You’ve got to pivot and try to change your ways to draw the best out of your employees.
Research firm Gallup recently reported that an astonishing 68.5% of U.S. employees are not engaged in their current roles. Within that group, 17.5% of the workforce characterise themselves as actively disengaged, which means that they are actively working to undermine the success of their companies, it said.
Disengagement costs companies billions of dollars every year. It’s because that disengaged employees make teams less productive, less profitable and less likely to be loyal. Besides, the lack of loyalty to the company can result in employees jumping ship frequently. A low retention can cost businesses approximately 1.5 times the annual salary of every person who quits (and let’s not forget the training costs).
Compared with disengaged teams, engaged teams show 24% to 59% less turnover, 10% higher customer ratings, 21% greater profitability, 17% increased productivity, 28% less shrinkage, 70% fewer safety incidents and 41% less absenteeism, according to a Gallup report.
So the ROI is pretty evident and straightforward. As all investments go, though, you have to put something in first to get something back: Invest in your employees to reap the rewards, both on a personal and corporate level.
3. Who’s Responsible For Engagement?
The answer to this question is simple: EVERYONE. Employee engagement is everyone’s responsibility.
One of the key elements of employee engagement is belonging. You feel a strong personal connection to the business and its performance and profitability.
Every employee should feel they are making meaningful contributions through their work and have a strong sense of responsibility. That would translate into each and every engaged employee being held accountable for the success of your team and the business.
Four groups that act as pillars to ensure a successful corporate engagement initiative are Top-level management, HR, Team leaders and Team members
Leaders in an organisation set the tone for employee engagement. They have to get behind it from the very beginning to promote and support the whole initiative. They are the ones that make major decisions such as corporate goals, so clear communication is key in ensuring every staff member understands and support the company’s initiatives.
Top-level management needs to lead by example but also take the bottom-up approach by making sure the entire organisation is up to date on progress along the way.
Most importantly, leaders need to fully back the idea and importance of employee engagement for it to truly work and do its magic. If your leader is a non-believer, then attempting to achieve employee engagement will be a lost cause.
Human resources (HR)
Your HR department is your star quarterback to win the game of employee engagement. They carry a hefty load, given that they need to make sure every aspect of employees’ work experience runs smoothly.
HR needs to start the process by selecting the right candidates to join your various teams. The vetting process is a crucial and important one as a new staff member can make or break a team.
Upon successful recruitment, HR must ensure that each staff member feels engaged and motivated. This can be done by managing the process themselves on a day-to-day basis (which would be extremely time-consuming) or selecting the right employee-engagement partner. This partner should be able to help tailor-make an employee engagement strategy that will be effective and efficient.
Team leaders are your employees’ representatives. They act as the go-between top management and staff and play a crucial role in identifying both critical areas of opportunities and challenges.
The team leaders will be the people that employees turn to with concerns, feedback and suggestions. You need to make sure they listen with earnest enthusiasm. They need to have the passion, compassion and drive to lead a team to its maximum potential.
Make sure your team managers communicate on a regular basis, both upstream and downstream – that’s the bread and butter of employee engagement after all.
A company is nothing without its employees. They are your foot soldiers who will battle it out in the vicious arena that is the corporate world of losses and profits.
To get the best out of them, you need to know their thoughts, needs and desire.What would keep them happy and engaged? What encourages them to hold themselves accountable for their work?
Top management, team leaders and HR need to keep lines of communication wide open. Thus, any employee concerns get addressed promptly. Besides, managers should give positive feedback to boost motivation.
4.How To Create Engagement
How do you create this beautiful thing called engagement that seems to be the panacea of all corporate problems?
That’s your one-million-dollar question!
More money, better engagement?
Money doesn’t seem to be the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to job satisfaction. Studies have shown that money doesn’t motivate people, beyond a certain degree, to do their best work.
A meta-analysis by Tim Judge and colleagues showed the association between salary and job satisfaction is fragile. Employees earning salaries in the top half of their data range reported similar levels of job satisfaction to those employees earning salaries in the bottom-half of their data field.
What’s about perks?
Perks like having a trendy office with pool tables, a restaurant-like pantry or bean bags, are all well and good. However, they don’t tend to do much to boost engagement or productivity. Free gym memberships don’t do that much, either.
These perks may make employees happy and healthy, but their impact on performance or engagement is questionable.
So how do you create engagement?
Studies show that direct interaction from leadership, recognition for accomplishments, strong bonds between co-workers, a sense of purpose and a sense of autonomy all contribute to improved engagement, according to betterteam.com.
To successfully tackle the issue, all four main parties must fully recognise its importance. If any one of these groups decide that employee engagement is a lot of airy-fairy nonsense, you’ve lost the battle before even drawing your sword.
Bring in the experts
Once you’ve got everyone to fully support the engagement initiative, the best thing to do is to work with an engagement specialist if you have a sizeable business. There are many employee engagement experts who could help guide you in the right direction.
If budget is a constraint, you may want to give it a go yourself. In this case, the success rate is often higher for a small team.
The highest employee engagement level is found in companies with fewer than ten people.
When Gallup examined engagement by company size, it found the highest employee engagement level by far (42%) in companies with fewer than ten people, suggesting something unique and beneficial about working in a smaller, tight-knit work environment when it comes to engagement.
5.How Companies Kill Engagement
Creating employee engagement takes a lot of work and commitment, but killing it is easily done. The worst part is that most managers don’t realise the effects of their actions.
What harms engagement?
Pretty much any seemingly small actions that result in the removal of autonomy or a sense of purpose, blocking communication and creating a feeling that hard work will not be appreciated or rewarded.
Here are some common ways that companies/managers kill engagement, consciously or obliviously:
It’s all about communication! If you can’t communicate effectively with your team, engagement won’t happen. Be vocal and express yourself. That’s the only way to let others know how you feel and what you need.
Skimping out on recognition
If you want people to give you their very best, make sure to offer them the reward they deserve. Even if you feel it is something not hugely significant, a word of praise costs nothing. Position people in roles where they can play to the best of their strengths. Avoid focusing too much on pointing out weaknesses. No one appreciates having their noses rubbed in their mistakes all the time.
No employee training and development
People like to feel they are improving. Training and development give the tools needed to grow. The investment in them also makes them feel valued.
Unnecessarily strict work schedules
Gallup says remote workers log an average of four more hours per week than their on-site counterparts. These workers are slightly more engaged (32%) than employees who work on-site (28%), it’s found. It’s true that some jobs that require strict schedules. However, a little flexibility can go a long way in making employees feel valued. When they can work from home, they have an increased sense of autonomy.
6. How To Track Engagement
Tracking engagement is a tricky one. The old-school way to do it was via an annual performance review or by a survey. Unfortunately, asking employees to rate their own level of engagement once a year, especially when they know their salaries/bonuses are at stake, may not result in the most accurate information.
To accurately track engagement, it is important to know the key characteristics that an engaged employee should display.
An engaged employee should:
- Feel a strong personal connection to their team and the whole organisation
- Have a complete understanding of his/her role, which should be clearly defined
- Understand how they contribute to the organisation
- Hold themselves accountable for their own work and are self-guided
- Have a desire for professional development
Managers should personally check on a regular basis by having frequent meetings. Nothing beats face-to-face time when it comes to communication. However, this may also depend on the type of employee that you’re dealing with. Some people may not be as forthcoming in one-on-one meetings as others. After all, not everyone would feel comfortable complaining with their team leader.
The power of observation
Another way to tell if an employee is engaged is just through observation. How often does an employee stay behind at lunch or stay after hours to finish something? Using one’s own discretionary time to do work may be an indicator that the employee is engaged.
The flip side is also a good way to gauge engagement. How often is an employee late or sick? Are they always tardy in the morning? Do they often get back late from breaks or leave early? These are clear signs of disengagement.
Do they participate fully in meetings and events, or do they just sit through them and try to escape as soon as possible?
Disengagement is easier to detect than engagement. Keep an eye out, and you won’t miss the telltale signs.
7.The Role Of Technology
Technology is a thing of brilliance. We’re living in an age where we couldn’t possibly do without technology. We’ve become so dependent on all sorts of apps and tools in our everyday lives. It is hard to remember how we got on before without them.
Millennials, who make up a large chunk of our current workforce, were born and raised in the technology age. They are extremely tech-savvy. A PWC survey found 41% of millennials prefer to communicate electronically at work than face to face or even over the telephone.
In order to successfully engage employees, you need to know your audience. If your audience is tech-savvy, the best approach is through the medium they find most comfortable: digital.
There are some brilliant apps out there that help you increase engagement, facilitate employee recognition and even create a mini-social network for your team.
Here is a sneak peak into how apps help to increase engagement:
Gamification is an innovative approach to foster motivation. It refers to the use of game elements in non-game contexts. It takes the “seriousness” out of work and morphs activities into games in which you can earn rewards.
Research has shown that gamification helps in improving levels of motivation that lead to longer knowledge retention and impact the core workflow. Gamification can help reinforce drivers of engagement such as friendly competition, community, goals and rewards, and autonomy.
Gamification apps also measure real-time engagement and performance levels of employees and help them compare their performance with their peers. The feedback helps them improve without having to wait for annual reviews. Besides, managers can address engagement issues at an early stage.
Training and development
Technology is an excellent tool to use for training and development.
The most obvious method is top-down corporate training. With apps, training could be tailored to suit the needs of each employee.
Employees could also use technology to coach and educate their peers. By sharing tutorial videos, resources, etc., they can increase their networks, self-esteem and resourcefulness.
Many people find face-to-face, one-on-one conversation rather confrontational. These days, so much communication is carried out indirectly via chat apps such as Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger.
If you’re old school, you may prefer a direct and personal conversation. Many of your co-workers, who are millennials, may prefer to communicate via chats.
Communication is essential in drawing out as much information regarding an employee’s state of happiness and engagement. Know your audience and adapt to the times. If your staff prefers to use a chat box to one-on-one meetings, go with the method. It’s likely to give you better results.
Better communication also helps foster stronger and lasting relationships. In the world of millennials, using technology to give employees regular access to team leaders and ensuring that those managers provide regular feedback and coaching may mean the difference between keeping or losing a staff member.
Technology is a great monitoring tool. The right apps can help to monitor career development, identify star employees, and develop strategies.
Survey apps are an awesome way to check-in casually on a regular basis. You see where an employee stands and what you can do to help develop this person’s career.
Millennials are renown as being loyalty-lite. They will jump ship and make multiple lateral moves in a short period. One job after another, many keep hopping till they find “meaning.” By understanding the needs of employees, managers will be able to provide education resources and to mentor at the right time, before millennial employees get exasperated and quit.
Addressing concerns and problems before they erupt into serious issues will ultimately help create a stronger bond between team leaders and staff. It will naturally aid in cultivating a positive corporate culture of healthy peer-to-peer relationships, managerial support and an engaging work experience.
Author: Catherine Cheong
Catherine is a regular contributor to the EngageRocket blog, and has written for news organisations such as the Washington Post and Reuters. She is a corporate communications expert, having headed the PR and branding efforts of international asset management firms.