Employee engagement may have been the new ‘buzz word’ from America just a few years ago but now businesses large and small are buying into it in some shape or form. However, in many companies it still seems to be a side project or a matter on the agenda, rather than an intrinsic part of the business plan. So how do we make companies really embrace employee engagement in 2014?
Firstly, we have to go back to basics. Perhaps the board need a gentle reminder that if employee engagement is done well a company will see productivity and profitability levels rise; they’ll also see staff taking fewer days off sick, and employees will be prepared to go the extra mile to achieve the company’s objectives. When it’s put to any board member in this way the facts speak for themselves.
To really push employee engagement up the business agenda HR needs to start benchmarking performance and analysing staff engagement metrics with key business metrics. At a simple and basic level, comparing your engagement scores against metrics such as staff turnover and sickness and absence is a good start. If you have access to more information, such as customer feedback, sales figures, utilisation and productivity then more detailed, in depth analysis can be conducted to look at the relationship between employee engagement and the wider business. As with all business disciplines once the board can recognise the power and effects engagement can have upon a business the more it will be absorbed into the business’s philosophy.
When the success of engagement can be demonstrated via hard commercial data the board are much more likely to get behind your employee engagement plans, financially and personally. For employee engagement to be a success it must always be led from the top down. If the CEO doesn’t listen, react and reach out to employees why would staff members ever bother to put more effort into their roles? Of course if the CEO makes the time and effort to support it, so will all middle management too, and before long the effects will snowball throughout the organisation. There can’t be a ‘say do’ gap.
Strategic HR – finding the boardroom
Employee engagement also offers a real opportunity to push the HR function firmly up the board’s agenda. It’s been said for many years that ‘people are your best assets’, but if each individual is prepared to go the extra mile the possibilities are endless. Therefore it’s essential that HR starts to push engagement into the corporate strategy. It can no longer be seen as a side project, it must become part of a company’s DNA to ensure you fully reap the benefits of a fully engaged and perhaps empowered workforce. Many companies have benefited from this shift to encouraging their workforce to take more control over their destiny and more entrepreneurial in their everyday working lives. The obvious examples here are Apple and Google. A move to an empowered culture cannot happen overnight and needs much preparation, but with the right management guidance, and with the right people in the organisation, it really can happen and might be something worth considering.
Retaining top talent
Embracing employee engagement as the UK heads out of recession will also help companies retain their top talent as fresh and new exciting opportunities pop up elsewhere. In the past high achievers have always been the first group to search for new openings after a recession. HR needs to engage with this group and create specialist strategies to keep their most talented resource at their workplace.
Another key reason to embrace employee engagement is to support your company’s ‘squeezed middle’; especially as workloads have become increasingly heavy over the past few years. This management group receives pressure from the top down and the bottom up. Companies that invest in training and supporting middle management to engage their teams effectively will do well, rather than the ones whom simply promote staff for their length of service or expertise. Create a culture too where middle management can confidently feedback honestly to the board their successes and concerns to create a transparent view of how strategies are affecting the business.
My last piece of advice would be to totally embrace engagement but don’t bang on about it. Many staff have become very cynical about employee engagement after reading how it can make them more productive and help boost a company’s profitability – so be careful how you position it with your workforce. Remember no successful business can ever stand still and this is a great chance to give the HR function even more clout in the boardroom.
How to embrace employee engagement in 2014:
- Shift in linking engagement metrics with key business metrics.
- Engagement to become part of organisation’s DNA.
- Consider moving to an empowerment culture in workplace.
- Engage top talent to ensure they don’t jump ship
- Support the ‘squeezed middle’ to ensure your business in ship shape.
- Don’t bang on about engagement!