HeartfeltHR - Jill Aburrow - HR Consultant
Passion for people

Why should a business care about employee engagement?


Employee Engagement is important to you as an employer – for business success and growth.  It should be easy to achieve, at least on a basic level.  And it is something which needn’t cost you much money.

So what is employee engagement and why should you care?

What is employee engagement?

Essentially, it is the ingredient that makes your employees want to come to work every day. It is what makes employees give commitment and loyalty to their work and workplace.

For  your employees, it is the feeling of being trusted and valued by you, their employer.  And it is about understanding their job and how that fits into the overall direction of the organisation. Another element is being free to give their opinion, or raise concerns with you.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to act on their suggestions or even agree with them, but they need to feel that their opinions  are valued and heard.

There are many, many factors which contribute to employee engagement and they all inter-connect, but the things outlined above are the basics you need to ensure are in place to help employees feel engaged.

Why does employee engagement matter?

If your employees like coming to work and are happy when they are at work, then they will be productive.  They will be loyal and will do what they can to support your business.  This equals growth and is likely to bring you increased profits and a more successful business.

Your people are key to business success and you need to put them at the centre of your plans for the business.  Of course, there are other things that are critical to your success.  Some of these are finances; customers; regulation; your ability to innovate.  But these things (and many others) are all impacted by the people in the business and your relationship with those people.

If you do not engage with your employees, then you risk high absence and high turnover of staff.  You will find that your staff lack motivation and cannot interact well with your customers.  They will not be creative or innovative.  They are the key to the success of your business, or its decline.

You can measure employee engagement and you can take steps to increase it.

How can an employer achieve employee engagement?

Employee engagement brings a gradual change to the culture of the organisation. It can take some time to achieve changes, but there are things which you can do immediately.

The key is for this to be a genuine change in direction on your part.  It is no good just to pay lip-service to the idea of employee engagement.  In essence, you need to cultivate a real desire and intention to engage with your employees.  You need to listen to them, understand their needs, make changes as a result.

Managers in any organisation are critical to the success of employee engagement.  You need your managers to buy into the change. They may need some development and skills training in how to engage with the individuals in their team.

A clear vision

You need to have a clear vision for your organisation.  For a start, you need to understand what it is that you are aiming to achieve and you need to be able to communicate that to your staff. Ideally, you can then help your staff to understand how their specific job contributes to the success of that vision.  They need to be able to see that their job is important and valued by the organisation.  This applies to every job, whatever it is.  We all need to feel that we are needed and can contribute.

A key to having motivated employees is for them to feel that their views are valued.  They know the job and what works – or doesn’t work.  Undoubtedly, they will have views about the best way to achieve results.   You need to ensure you have a method for hearing what they say.  They will probably have some good ideas, which could make positive changes in your business.  If they come up with a suggestion which isn’t practical, then it is fine to turn the idea down.  But you must explain why it won’t work, or why it needs to be delayed.  The employees want to feel that you have really considered their views.

Trust and Integrity – a two-way street

The final key step to an engaged workforce is potentially the most important one.  It involves  building an environment where there is trust between you and your staff.  You need to live up to your promises.  You need to make sure your managers are living up to them too.  It is all very well to have policies and rules, but you need to ensure they are followed – by everyone.  Managers and employees alike. 

That means that your policies and procedures must be concise, clear and easy to understand and follow.  If you want people to abide by your policies, they need to have read them and understand them.  They will only do that if they are easy to read and each expectation is clear. 

On the whole, if you trust people, they will prove trustworthy and will want to live up to the trust placed in them.  There will always be an exception to that – but there are ways of managing those exceptions.  Just because one person has proved untrustworthy at some point – or even if you are just afraid that someone will – is no reason to stop trusting everyone.  

Stop micro-managing and give people the autonomy to make their own decisions.  You will be surprised at how well they respond and how soon your employee engagement improves as a result.

Summing up the basics of employee engagement

The  four key steps to successful employee engagement are:

Vision – have a vision of where your organisation is heading.  Make sure you are able to communicate that vision to your staff, so they can see the importance of their own role in achieving that vision.

Management Skills – make sure you and your managers are skilled in listening, empowering and managing staff.

Listen to your employees – make sure you have a mechanism in place for your employees to voice their ideas, concerns and suggestions.  And ensure that you consider those ideas and give them proper feedback.

Ensure trust is a two-way street – trust your employees and make sure they can trust you.  Live up to promises made.  Apply rules and procedures to everyone, including managers.

These steps are just the starting point, if you really want to engage with your employees. 

If you can connect with your employees and make them understand their contribution to the success of your business, then you will have a loyal, engaged workforce who will help you to grow your business and increase your profits.

So how do you make a start?

A good place to start is to run an employee engagement survey.  If  you make it anonymous so that people feel safe to give completely honest answers, then you will get some incredibly valuable information about what works and what doesn’t work in your organisation. 

The key then, of course, is to produce an action plan based on the feedback and to start to make some changes.  If your employees can see that their voices have been heard and you are taking action, then it will get you off to a really good start in improving your company culture and engaging with your employees.

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Jill Aburrow - HR Consultant

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