Employee engagement can deliver huge benefits to business. When things go wrong, a lack of engagement can have serious effects. So what is employee engagement? And how can you make sure it’s the best it can be?

What is employee engagement?

Forget job satisfaction and motivation. You can be motivated and full to the brim with job satisfaction without feeling properly engaged. A fully engaged employee is wholly involved in their work. They’re enthusiastic about it. And their positive feelings encourage them to naturally further their employer’s interests. In its most formal guise, it’s a measurable insight into someone’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and the organisation they work for… so much so that it profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform.

Take engagement to the max and it means an employee does a wonderful job and goes several extra miles:  they might come up with ground-breaking ideas, discover new opportunities, deliver new customers, enhance your employer brand, identify fresh markets, take new product development to profitable new levels and even encourage talented contacts to join your business. In a word, they’re much more than an employee. They’re an advocate, which is employee gold dust.

How does a lack of engagement affect business?  

When employees feel disengaged they do their jobs… and that’s it. They don’t think beyond their everyday tasks, they don’t bother having bright ideas and they side-line creativity. All of which means the employer loses out on all kinds of opportunities. If the whole organisation is disengaged, you can imagine the damage it can do to the bottom line, affecting morale, limiting prospects, and devaluing competitive advantages.

What drives disengagement?

It’s relatively simple to keep people engaged. Most of us enjoy mentally stimulating day-to-day work. We like our efforts to be recognised, acknowledged, and valued by colleagues and managers.  We like to work for organisations we’re proud to recommend to others. We aspire to working for a company long-term and growing with them. And we’re happiest when we work with colleagues and managers who genuinely appreciate and value the business as a whole.

How can employee engagement be improved?

·         Make sure employees feel their job is important

·         Ensure the role is clear so employees know exactly what’s expected of them

·         Provide the basic materials and equipment people need to do the best possible job

·         Create a culture in which positive input and creative contributions are important

·         Make sure there are advancement opportunities for people to aim for

·         Provide regular feedback

·         Bear in mind that a simple thank you is usually worth a great deal

·         Ensure positive working relationships with peers, managers and subordinates

·         Make sure employees’ understanding of the organisation’s values is on the button

·         Put in place inspirational leadership

·         Create a system of effective internal communications so everyone knows what’s going on

·         Incentivise people to reward engagement though employee benefits, with realistic targets and public acknowledgement

What are the short and long-term benefits?

In the short term, fully engaged employees will work harder because they enjoy their working life more. They’ll be more creative, pro-active and motivated. In the long term, there are proven links between engagement and a healthy bottom line. And engaged employees are more loyal, sticking with companies for longer and becoming keen advocates, dedicated brand ambassadors for products and services.

Image of engaged employees by Vancouver Island University