Advertising
Advertising

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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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)

    More by this author

    How to Cope with Rejection at Work Do You Unnecessarily Point Out Flaws? 5 Keys to Building Networks Over Time Is Flex-tirement the New Retirement? Does the Y Chromosome Inspire Confidence?

    Trending in Work

    1 13 Characteristics of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs 2 5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All 3 10 Simple Habits Every Effective Manager Needs to Learn 4 10 Ways To Help Your Employees Have A Healthy Work-Life Balance 5 Top 10 Workplace Safety Tips Every Employee Should Know

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

    Advertising

    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

    Advertising

    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

    Advertising

    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

    Advertising

    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

    Read Next