Employee engagement: how to get it right

Matt Jenkins, Footdown
- Leadership - Dec 19, 2016

Employee engagement is a vital part of succeeding in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive business world.

Engaged organisations benefit from reduced staff turnover, more productive employees, improved efficiency and higher customer retention and are ultimately more profitable. With these benefits within grasp, senior executives are making employee engagement a business priority and searching for efficient strategies to achieve these goals.

In our globalised economy, where companies have branches and offices all over the world, this is a challenge for any senior executive. In most cases, business leaders leave the issue with the HR department and focus on complex employee satisfaction surveys, gamification applications and team building sessions.

These examples can deliver results, but do they help you to truly understand your employees? Do you know their pain points and how to specifically improve engagement in each department? Do you even know if engagement is an issue affecting your staff and whether this is in fact an issue you should be focusing on?

If you have answered ‘No’, take a step back. You first need to assess the state of your team. After all, it’s crucial to create the right environment for employees to feel safe, valued and to thrive. However, you shouldn’t just follow the trends and presume what worked for one company will deliver results for yours as well.

You need to balance your existing team with the business outcomes you want to deliver. Your team might already be engaged and the issue lies with the technology they use in their jobs or the product you’re selling. You won’t know what they need unless you ask and assess the wider business context.

Tools to Help

There are tools available to help you deliver on this objective. Technology assisting with employee engagement has evolved in recent years. Some solutions can cut through the noise to scan your employee engagement in a matter of minutes. These can also deliver you a relevant, comprehensive report revealing areas that need improvement or a change of strategy.                   

No matter what technology you choose, the most important thing is for employees to feel secure when they provide insight and feedback. Confidentiality and anonymity are key. In this way, you’ll learn their honest views and not what they think you want to hear. If they know engagement is important to the business, they will open up with ideas and reveal new things about your organisation.

The key areas to focus on when assessing your team are: company culture, performance and engagement.

Company Culture

With company culture, don’t focus solely on customers but on your team as well. You can’t engage customers if your own employees don’t understand or believe in the organisation’s values. The main pillars of a healthy, effective culture are:

Structure – Is your company stable and reliable? Are team leaders seen as being focused on efficiency, coordination and order?

Collaboration – Is your organisation focused on teamwork, harmony and developing people? Are team leaders seen as mentors, coaches, facilitators and mediators?

Innovation – Do you value creative disturbance, cutting edge services, agility, flexibility and productive change? Are executives regarded as visionary, entrepreneurial and innovative?

Competition – Is your organisation driving employees to achieve their very best, focusing on goals and being the best in the market? Is the management seen as tough, demanding, competitive and results-driven?

Once you know the answers to these questions you can shape a strong organisational culture that employees and customers can relate to and engage with. Company culture should set the tone for how your employees behave and how they treat your customers in return.

Organisational Performance

Usually, the performance of your company will be anchored in one of the following stages: Building, Success, Challenge and Failure.

If you’re going through the first two stages, you’re on a positive trend and should focus on developing the business and teams. The last two states show pressure is building, resources are stretched and you could be heading for a crisis.

Before deciding on the best strategy to drive the company forward or an emergency plan to save it, you need to know where you stand. Sometimes the smallest details can tip your organisation onto a negative curve which over time can lead to a fully blown crisis. With the right insight, you can pre-empt such scenarios and fine tune the company’s culture to avoid entering the negative side of the spectrum.

Engagement

The final step is to decipher whether employees are united behind, committed to, and confident in, the company’s development plan.

Balance is a nice word but can be a counterproductive concept. All executives face this critical dilemma. For an organisation to thrive, leaders need to have high expectations of employees while balancing this with the right investment policy (time, energy and money) to ensure employees can achieve and sustain such high performance.

So before launching an innovative employee engagement campaign, make sure you fully understand if your employees are complacent, stagnating or facing high levels of anxiety. What do they need to fully commit to your strategic plan?

This might be challenging to face but when it concerns employee engagement and organisational health, ignorance is never a good strategy. The cost of disengagement significantly outweighs any investment you’ll eventually have to make to rectify issues.

Make sure you measure engagement regularly and prioritise long-term action. Developing a strong, engaging company culture to harness the full potential of your team creates a competitive edge stronger than many innovative, daring and smart growth strategies. 

By Matt Jenkins, Head of Consultancy at Footdown

Read the December 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine. 

Follow @BizReviewEurope

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