Practitioners and academicians have argued that an engaged workforce can create competitive advantage. It is imperative for leaders to identify the level of engagement in their organization and implement behavioral strategies that will facilitate engagement practices in desired manner and should not only serve the idea of entertaining the workforce and keep them happy and motivated. There is much more to address when you talk about ‘employee engagement’. An engaged employee is a person who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work. Hence it becomes very important to continuously review and analyze the organizational employee engagement practices, trends and status.
What is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is an attitude of the employee/s towards their job, organization and its goals. Employee engagement is a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization‘s reputation and interests. An engaged employee has a positive attitude towards the organization and its values. An organization with “high” employee engagement might therefore be expected to outperform those with “low” employee engagement.
Today it has been realized that happy employees are productive employees; “engagement” has become a catchphrase that includes all the positive feelings and qualities that we want in employees. If it’s a positive behavior, we lump it into the “engagement” category. However, this creates a good deal of confusion as many try to define engagement for their particular organization.
Let’s discuss the vital differentiators about what employee engagement is and what it is not:
- Employee Engagement is not Satisfaction. Satisfied employees are content with their pay, working environment, and the job they do. Satisfaction must be in place for employees to be engaged (it’s the “price of admission”) but it does not cause an employee to be passionate about her job, nor does it cause an employee to throw his heart, hands, and mind into his work.
- Employee Engagement is not Happiness and Entertainment. Employees can be happy at work but not necessarily engaged in their work. A fun working environment can contribute to engagement, but it may only make your employees happy without contributing to engagement. Happiness should lead to engagement and so productivity. Merely being happy and entertained at work and not engaged in work will not be termed as employee engagement
- Employee Engagement is not Motivation. Motivation is a component or result of engagement in one’s work. Engaged employees feel motivated to do their best because the conditions for engagement have been met. Additionally, motivation does not always equate to action (I’m motivated to diet, but that sure doesn’t mean I’m going to).
- Employee Engagement is not Empowerment. Autonomy or empowerment is a component of engagement, but some mistake ‘being empowered’ with ‘being left alone’. The opposite of this, of course, is to be powerless and micromanaged. Empowerment also often ignores the fact that engagement is a choice. While I may be empowered, once again, I may not act.
So in a nutshell, employee engagement is a state and a behavior that makes employees feel passionate about their work, and give their hearts, hands, and minds to that work; it leads to employees caring more and contributing more to their work and their companies; it is driven by experiencing meaning, autonomy, growth, impact, and connection in one’s job.
A clear view of the behaviors demonstrated by the engaged employee emerged:
- belief in the organization
- desire to work to make things better
- understanding of business context and the ‘bigger picture’
- respectful of, and helpful to, colleagues
- willingness to ‘go the extra mile’
- keeping up to date with developments in the field.
What Drives Employees Engagement: Key Engagement Drivers:
So what drives employees to demonstrate above mentioned engagement behavior? Several theories have been propounded that focus on the rational and emotional aspects of engagement. Some even focus on the tangible and intangible aspects of engagement. Mercer’s ‘What’s Working’ studies reveal that engagement drivers differ by geography, by industry and even by time.
While there is no one solution for leveraging employee engagement, there are some broad drivers which are presented below:
- Work/Job Role – Employees must see a link between their role and the larger organization goal. Understanding this linkage provides an intrinsic motivation and increased engagement. Most employees will come to work on time without possessing a sense of belonging and will try and complete assigned tasks even without possessing that sense achievement on completion of task. However, an employee that sees a clear linkage on how his/her role contributes to the organization will go the extra mile and help create organization wealth.
- Work Environment/Organization Culture – The bond between an employee and the organization is cemented when the employee identifies with the culture of the organization. An employee is engaged and motivated to stretch beyond the call of duty if he/she finds the work environment enabling and supportive.
- Rewards and Recognition – The bottom line is that people work to earn which helps fulfill ambitions. Equitable pay coupled with rewards and recognition programs enhances motivation and leads to commitment and engagement.
- Learning and Training Opportunities – As Lawyer (2006) put it – “People Enjoy Learning.” This is especially true in the case of today’s millennial workforce that constantly looks at enhancing knowledge and skill. Skill and Knowledge enhancement is not just important for the employees but providing a learning culture is essential for organizations to remain relevant in the constantly changing business landscape.
- Performance Management – An effective performance management system contributes positively to employee engagement. Goal setting lies at the root of any performance management system. Clearly articulated goals, a fair and just means to judge performance and timely, rational feedback are critical elements in creating a bond between the employee and his/her organization.
- Leadership – It is a well recorded fact that most resignations happen because the employee is not satisfied with his/her ‘boss.’ An organization that spends time and effort in grooming leaders who are aligned to its goals, culture and people invests well. New age industries have a young and dynamic workforce that looks for autonomy in decision making, increased responsibility and accountabilities.
- Other Factors – Clear and open communication, quality of interaction with peers, collaboration, organization policy, organization performance are all contributing factors to employee engagement.