If you’re looking at how to improve employee engagement, here are the fundamentals of what it is and what to focus on to improve it.
The fact is, engagement remains the ultimate prize for employers.
Let’s face it, economic pressures and glottalization means that nearly all companies are trying to get more out with less staff.
Increasing headcount to cope with additional sales, can often spiral out of control. The logical additional overhead normally outstrips the increased sales.
This in turn, causes a heavy burden on cashflow and overall competitiveness.
On the contrary, having a large chunk of engaged people that can get you these goals without adding to the overhead cost, is significant.
Think of it this way.
You have your business engine. If you feed it with fuel, it’ll move along.
This fuel is found in the many resources needed to make the engine work. Things like cash, good financials, sales, processes, operations, etc, have a part to play to feed the engine and deliver results.
Now, if you want to inject a level of power greater than the competition or indeed more than previously, you need something else.
People form this high-octane power. The more power you put in the engine, the better the output.
If you can learn how to improve employee engagement in your business, you can feed the engine with more high octane power. And it’ll get greater results.
You can achieve more and get more out with less input.
Employee engagement can be quantified.
In fact, through many studies in recent years, research teams have linked engagement to business benefits.
The question now is not if engagement is real, but how to improve it in your business.
In other words, there are many empirical studies that show that if you can increase engagement in your business, you can increase the power to your engine and turbo charge your results.
The risks to employers are:
Engagement is a dynamic thing.
How to improve employee engagement? The first lesson is this: It’s not something that you set and forget.
You should keep nurturing it.
You should keep evaluating it.
And you should keep improving the working conditions.
Many years ago, I encountered the 20:60:20 model model.
In change management, the theory goes like this:
In this model, the 60% fence sitters can go either way.
On good days, they can listen to the pioneers and have a positive day. They can be positively influenced by them.
However…. On a bad day, they can listen to the negative 20% change-resistant folk. And just as they are led by the pioneers, they can be influenced by the resistant employees too.
What happens then?
Well, caught in the wrong hands, so to speak, you can get a critical mass of people whose attitudes are negative.
Change slows down (or even stops)
And all the good work you’re putting in, comes to a grinding halt.
Focus on the 20% pioneers. Work with them to lead the way. Empower them and get them to influence the fence sitters.
And when executed correctly, you have a critical mass of 80% bought into the change management programme.
In Employee Engagement, it turns out that the same is true.
Find your 20% Engaged Pioneers
Use them to influence their peers and create a work environment that helps improve engagement.
Get them to influence others and help rub their positivity off.
Put them in positions of empowerment where you can and use them to drive positive influence.
When people try to work out how to improve employee engagement, they often think there’s a magic fix.
Or worse still, they can just pay them more money and try to make them happy.
Pay and happiness are important things. But they are different to engagement.
Engagement is about getting people engaged in their work.
It’s about making the ingredients right so they can use discretionary effort and keep coming back and doing the tasks you ask to a high level.
Apart from finding your 20:60:20, the other things that can help improve employee engagement are the things that can’t be fixed quickly, I’m afraid.
These things take time and focus.
Here are the typical elements that need to be developed:
Good Leadership – knowing when to lead, when to delegate and how to build relationships and empowerment.
Accountability – Allowing people to take ownership and responsibility in their roles
Autonomy – Working with employees to develop them and then to know when to step back and provide autonomy in certain tasks.
A sense of shared destiny – Communicating clear objectives and goals, so people know how they fit within the bigger picture.
Opportunities for development – Religiously developing each employee, and not looking at it as something nice to do if you had the time…
Good communication – Open communication to allow everyone to reflect, improve, discuss important things. And to create a platform of leader-team communication.
Find your leadership system. Focus on the daily things you and your leaders need to do, that covers these areas, and you’ll start to improve your engagement over time.
Here’s a link to a study by Perrin Towers. It’s a few years old, now, but is as pertinent as ever.