Take a look around you. Just a third of the UK workforce feels engaged, so what are the implications for your own business or department?
Studies show that employee engagement – of bringing one’s best and full self to work – is not just a ‘nice-to-have’. It is a business imperative, linked to a number of performance outcomes including productivity, profitability and customer satisfaction.
Leaders must address employee engagement. Here are a few pointers that we explore on our LEAD programme with Professor John Oliver OBE, one of the UK’s foremost experts in this area:
Understand the basics of empowerment. Employees respond positively to more responsibility and authority in their daily tasks and often prefer autonomy. In other words, people generally do well when they are empowered to make choices and decisions for themselves.
Find out what engages your employees, not someone else’s. While broad research is valuable, it can only take an organisation so far. What matters is your business and your people. Ironically, most organisations use engagement results punitively; they focus on what is going wrong and on why people aren’t as engaged as they could be. A better approach is to figure out what’s already working in your business and find ways to replicate it. Go to the most engaged individuals, teams and business units (i.e. the top 20%), and help others learn from them.
Encourage grassroots engagement. Engagement cannot be mandated, but it can be ignited. Once you understand what matters to your employees, you can support its expression and replication far and wide. Empower your people, particularly the most engaged employees, to share stories, exchange ideas and disseminate best practices across the business. A well-designed piece of media, such as a video “starring” members of a thriving team can gain traction and become a source of encouragement for others. Make engagement contagious.
Recognise engagement as a moving target and check back often. While certain elements of employee engagement will hold over time, it’s not something that can be assessed and addressed just once. To keep your organisation engaged, you must remain engaged, curious, and connected yourself.
This article was first published in Business & Innovation Magazine in September 2018.