Employee Engagement represents the relationship between an organization and its employees. This is not just a rational connect, but is also an emotional bond that binds employees to organizations. How do employees feel about the organization they serve? Do they feel energized and motivated to bring their best selves to work every day, day after day? Are the individual goals of your best talent aligned with the goals of the organization? If the answer is an overwhelming yes, then the organization has succeeded in consistently engaging its employees. However, this is seldom the case, with most firms only barely being able to attract, retain and further engage the best talent.
Worldwide studies have indicated that only 13% of employees are engaged at work. This number has only marginally improved over the years. Further, 24% of employees are actively disengaged – meaning they are unhappy, unproductive and liable to spread negativity among coworkers. About 63% of the employees are not engaged, which means they lack motivation and invest less than optimum time and effort into meeting organizational outcomes.
Engaged employees perform better than their non-engaged counterparts due to the following reasons:
- They often experience positive emotions
- They experience better health
- They create their own job and personal resources
- They transfer their engagement to others (cross-over)
The challenge for organizations lies in harnessing the strengths of their individual employees. A one-size-fits-all approach to engagement is unlikely to work because the strengths of no two employees are exactly the same. Given this reality, identifying what the organizational talent pool is capable of accomplishing – both individually and collectively - becomes the key differentiator for organizations.
Our research shows that the following parameters are essential to enable a personalized employee engagement environment within an organization:
Recognize and leverage individual strengths– Going back to the definition of engagement, an organization can accomplish its top and bottom-line objectives in a way that is meaningful for its employees by strengthening its relationship with them. A step in this direction would be to identify the strengths of the employees.
According to Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, ‘strength’ consists of three crucial components –
- Talents – Naturally occurring patterns of thought, patterns or behaviour.
- Knowledge – Consists of the facts and lessons learned.
- Skills – Steps of an activity.
Although all three are important to strength-building, the most important of them is talent. Talents are innate, whereas skills and knowledge can be acquired through knowledge and practice. For example, the manager of a product marketing team within an organization might be well-versed with all product features (knowledge) and would also be equipped to execute large projects within defined timelines (skill). However, the manager’s real talent lies in being able to differentiate the product and creatively position the brand within the target segment. This ability transcends awareness of knowledge and skills, and requires talent.
Engaged employees are those who bring their best into their workplaces and consistently contribute to the organizational objectives by leveraging their own, individual, unique strengths. This results in a win-win for both the individual and the employee.
Align organizational and individual values – It is a misconception that an organization’s culture is purely driven by the values that it defines for itself and then communicates to its workforce. The adoption rate of an organization’s values among its employees depends on the ability of the firm to align firm values with individual and team values. Take for example, ’respect for individual’ as a firm value. For an organization, this would need to be defined in terms of what it means to an employee in the sales team vis-à-vis someone in the legal team. Also, ‘respect’ through the frame of reference of multiple stakeholders – both internal and external – would also need to be spelt out. Additionally, value for an individual goes beyond the realm of just the office space. For employees to bring their complete self to the workplace, the definition must consider the how they might relate to firm values at a personal and interpersonal level, and consider the definition of the value holistically.
Manager v/s individual focus – Traditionally, engagement has been measured at the managerial level, i.e. how well employees are motivated, supported and led by their immediate supervisors. With the increase in the population of millennia’s at the workplace, this single lens of measuring engagement might not suffice. The lens of engagement, which was hitherto focused on the manager-subordinate relationship, must move away from this one area to include multiple touch-points that are of relevance to each employee. For example, a sales professional may interact and deal with a number of key clients, and is likely to be supported by teams apart from his own. If this individual experiences differentiated levels of collaboration while dealing with key stakeholders, he is likely to feel disengaged and demotivated. Therefore, a more personalized engagement plan, which defines each employee’s key result areas, and ensures that all touch-points are optimized for her to perform to the best of her abilities is the need of the hour.
Meeting the employees where they are – Proactivity, initiative and responsibility are key traits that organizations desire of their engaged employees. When engagement is personal, it leads to better performance. For this, firms would do well to stretch out and meet the employees where they are, listen and ask their workforce as to what more could be done to keep them engaged. This allows for two-way communication. The feedback could then be utilized to align and optimize organizational systems and processes to ensure maximum all-round engagement.
In conclusion, employees are better engaged and more productive, if their individual strengths are harnessed well, their values are aligned to firm values, the focus is on enabling the employee to perform to her maximum potential (not just enhancing the manager-employee relationship), and by being constantly tuned in to the needs of the workforce.