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Employee Engagement: What Is It Anyway?

Employee Engagement: What Is It Anyway?


    (Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two part series on employee engagement.)

    Now that the job market is improving somewhat, organizations have started to think more about retention, and the concept of “employee engagement” is being bandied about in offices across North America and Europe.  But what exactly is employee engagement, how do you know if you have it, and why should anyone care?

    Let’s begin with a simple definition. Employee engagement is a person’s degree of attachment to their company, role, and co-workers.  When employees are engaged, managers don’t have to force them to perform or monitor every task.  Rather, they are intrinsically motivated to do what’s in the best interest of the organization and can be trusted to do terrific work.

    Employee engagement is not the same thing as employee satisfaction.  The latter term was invented during the industrial age, when factory owners needed to ensure that masses of angry workers didn’t mutiny.  Satisfied employees don’t treat the organization as part of their family like engaged employees do, but they also aren’t gunning for its demise.

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    How Do You Know If People Are Engaged?

    To some extent, it’s easy to tell if an employee puts in that intangible but emotionally charged extra effort on the job.  But for those who like metrics, the good news is that there are many reliable ways to measure employee engagement.  Gallup, for one, has based its survey model on more than 30 years of in-depth behavioral economic research with 17 million employees.

    The company’s researchers identified 12 core elements, which they called the Q12, that predict employee and team performance and also link to essential business outcomes.  The questions include:

    • Do you know what is expected of you at work?
    • Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
    • At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
    • In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
    • Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
    • Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
    • At work, do your opinions seem to count?
    • Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
    • Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
    • Do you have a best friend at work?
    • In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
    • In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

    It’s easy to create a similar questionnaire to track engagement in your organization. You can ask these questions monthly, quarterly, or annually and have employees rate how much they agree or disagree on a scale of 1 to 5.

    Why Should You Care?

    It has been well demonstrated that the advantages of an engaged workforce include increased productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction.

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    Engaged firms have higher profits too.  According to the Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study, high-engagement firms grow their earnings-per-share (EPS) at a faster rate (28 percent) while low-engagement firms experienced an average EPS growth rate decline of 11.2 percent.  Likewise, HR consulting firm Hewitt Associates found that highly engaged firms had a shareholder return that was 19 percent higher than average.

    Even the organizational psychologists are singing the praises of employee engagement.  A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology claimed that resulting impact on revenue ranged from $960,000 to $1,440,000 per year per business unit when comparing those companies in the top quartile on employee engagement versus those companies in the bottom quartile.

    On the flip side of employee engagement is employee disengagement, and this presents an even bigger issue.  Before continuing with the discussion of disengagement, let’s characterize three types of employees:

    Actively engaged: These employees are always looking for ways to improve and work more efficiently.  They go above and beyond the call of duty to exceed expectations so that the company is more successful.

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    Not actively engaged: These employees show up to work and do their jobs, and leave as soon as the clock strikes 5PM.  They may be happy enough with their work, but have no desire to excel or help take the organization to new heights.

    Actively disengaged:  These employees are holding a grudge against the organization and look to undermine it at every turn.  They are the most dangerous because their negative attitude is contagious and can result in very real performance and morale problems.

    In the U.S., the estimated cost of disengagement in the workplace, which includes the actively disengaged and the not actively engaged, is over $350 billion in lost productivity, accidents, theft and turnover each year.  Gallup recently found that approximately 71 percent of American workers are not actively engaged or actively disengaged.

    When you consider these numbers, it’s no surprise that the majority of employees would be happy to leave their current organizations if a better opportunity presented itself.  And this is going to be expensive.  According to Ross Blake in his article Employee Retention: What Employee Turnover Really Costs Your Company, talent replacement costs an organization between 30 and 50 percent of the annual salary of entry-level employees, 150 percent of middle-level employees and up to 400 percent for specialized, high level employees.

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    Hopefully you’re now convinced of the need to address employee engagement with a fresh eye.  Later this month, we’ll explore some ways managers can improve team member engagement.

    (Photo credit: Business Engaged via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 19, 2020

    11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

    11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

    Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

    Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

    While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

    The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

    What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

    The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

    1. Cloud Computing

    “Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

    There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

    This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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    2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

    Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

    Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

    his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

    3. Data Management

    All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

    We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

    However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

    4. Scheduling

    Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

    An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

    5. Financial Skills

    These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

    While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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    6. Research Skills

    These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

    Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

    So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

    If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

    If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

    7. Marketing Skills

    While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

    Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

    While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

    8. Network Security Specialist

    Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

    So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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    9. Communication Skills

    At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

    Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

    10. Computer Programming

    I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

    11. Graphic Design

    As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

    Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

    That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

    Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

    You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

    Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

    Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

    Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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    This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

    You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

    But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

    Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

    In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

    Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

    And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

    The Bottom Line

    We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

    We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

    We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

    As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

    More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

    Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
    [2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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