Employee Engagement: Is It Actually Possible?

A cartoon man is chasing a moving target

Does it sometimes seem as if your goal of employee engagement is a moving target and, therefore, unreachable?

From our experience working for nearly twenty years with clients who recognize the importance of employee engagement, we like to encourage them to think in terms of meaningful and continuous improvement.

100% employee engagement may not be possible, but the more you increase your employee engagement ratings, the better your future business outlook. Our studies show that engaged workers are over 40% more productive and more effective than their unengaged or hostile counterparts. That should be well worth your efforts to increase employee engagement…it can have a huge impact on your bottom line.

So the question becomes, how can you go about increasing your employees’ loyalty to the company and intention to stay, their commitment to high performance, and their willingness to exert discretionary effort?

  • The role of trust
    What we know for sure is that trust plays a significant role in levels of employee engagement. Workers who “love the people” they work with value the relationships they have built on their team. And this “love” spills over to a loyalty to their company. But the kind of trust that is fundamental to high employee engagement goes beyond trusting team members. Employees also need to trust their senior leaders. Do they believe the company leadership to be competent and ethical? Does the culture modelled at the highest positional levels promote the kind of trust needed for open communication? Do they believe that senior leaders are setting the right course?Employees want to see that their ideas are welcomed and valued and even their criticisms are thoughtfully received and acted upon. This requires that leaders themselves acknowledge mistakes and honestly share business plans and financial results so there are no unwelcome surprises. When you hide bad news, you undermine employee faith and confidence in the organization.
  • The role of sharing
    Beyond sharing ongoing news of the business, leaders, to encourage higher employee engagement, should share rewards when times are good and targets are met. This helps employees see a direct connection between their performance and business results. And that direct connection increases their feeling of responsibility to their own success and the success of the company. By the same token, when times are bad, all must share in the pain…executives as well as employees. The incredibly and disproportionately high salaries of some executives can weaken the trust and loyalty of employees very quickly.
  • The role of training and development
    Certainly opportunities for learning and development and the power to co-create one’s own career path do a great deal to enhance employee engagement. But don’t overlook opportunities for employees to grow their skills and expertise across different functions. The more experience they have working with others, the more they are likely to build their soft skills…and those are the skills that will help them advance in any arena.

If you are serious about an ongoing improvement in employee engagement, be sure you focus on your corporate culture. See that it is built on a strong foundation of trust, open sharing, and multiple development paths. Your employees will pay you back generously with their loyalty, their hard work, and their enthusiasm for the company.

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