Key Learning Outcomes
- Identify your employees that are “engaged” or emotionally connected to your business and its vision, and have a positive impact on the bottom line.
- Outline the results of studies on employee engagement conducted in several countries.
- Learn about the “ten C’s of employee engagement” devised by Crim and Seijts in 2006.
- Understand that, as business leaders, improving employee engagement is a long-term project comprising ongoing and consistent effort.
When an employee is “engaged”, they are emotionally connected to the business and its vision, are enthusiastic about their work and are self-motivated to get the work done. You might wonder whether if your employees engaged or not really makes a difference to business performance. The research shows it does! Studies across a variety of industries show vast improvements in profitability and productivity even when there are only small improvements in the level of employee engagement. Having an engaged workforce can make a significant difference to your business’s bottom line. Thus, creating employee engagement is an essential skill for business leaders.
In general, the majority of employees are not very engaged. This has been found in various research studies on employee engagement across the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[wlm_ismember]
While there are slight differences in the numbers from country to country, these are the general findings:
- On average, less than 25% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs. These employees feel connected to the company and are going about their work with dedication and passion.
- About half of employees are somewhat engaged, putting time but not passion into their work.
- Depending on the study, up to 20% of employees are actively disengaged. These people are usually disruptive and actively try to undermine and distract those that are engaged in their work.
As a business owner or manager, these numbers are a little frightening. However, they do present an opportunity for business leaders to create a competitive advantage, by improving their levels of employee engagement. Through their research, academics Dan Crim and Gerard Seijts devised the “ten C’s of employee engagement” which are summarised below. In their 2006 paper published by the Ivey Business School they provide us with a guide of what things engage employees the most. They also provide business owners and managers with a checklist of things to be mindful of and the opportunity to implement changes that will have a positive impact on business performance.
- Connect – Employee engagement is a direct reflection of how employees feel about their relationship with their boss. Things such as bonuses or incentives are important, but employees are more engaged if leaders actively show that they value their employees. Effectively, they are looking to see if their boss “walks the talk” when they say that they value their team.
- Career – Employees are more engaged if they have challenging and meaningful work with potential for career advancement. Most people want to do new things and learn new skills, so leaders should look for opportunities to develop their employees.
- Clarity – Leaders must communicate a clear vision for the business. Employees are more engaged if they are clear on what senior management’s plans and goals are for the organisation, their division or their team.
- Convey – Leaders must clearly communicate their expectations about employees and provide feedback on their performance in the business.
- Congratulate – Engaged employees value recognition. Most employees state that they receive immediate feedback when performance is poor, but feedback and recognition for good performance is less common. Good leaders look for opportunity to give positive feedback and they do it a lot.
- Contribute – People want to know that they are contributing to the success of the business in a meaningful way and that their input matters.
- Control – Engaged employees want to have some control over the pace and flow of their work. Good leaders create opportunities for employees to exercise this kind of control.
- Collaborate – Employees working in teams with the trust and cooperation of their colleagues will outperform individuals and those in teams that lack good relationships. Studies indicate support from colleagues is a strong factor in employee engagement; therefore, leaders need to work to foster a positive culture in the organisation.
- Credibility – Employees want to be proud of their job, their performance and the company. Leaders should strive to maintain the company’s reputation and demonstrate high ethical standards.
- Confidence – Good leaders help to create confidence and lead by example, showing high standards of ethical and business performance.
By looking through this list you will see that, like many things in business, increasing the level of engagement is not all that difficult. In fact, the things that influence engagement are relatively simple. So, why then are engagement levels generally so low? Because what it takes is a real commitment to the process and a level of consistency that many leaders find difficult to deliver week after week, month after month and even year after year.
To be proactive in improving employee engagement, a business leader must drive a positive culture from the front every day. Being committed to creating high levels of employee engagement in your business is not a short-term solution; it is a commitment to shifting the culture of the business for the long term. It is important to be mindful that the efforts need to be ongoing, as employee engagement can quickly dwindle to an all-time low if there is inconsistency or if the efforts are not genuine.[/wlm_ismember]
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