Employee engagement. Even if you aren’t quite sure exactly what it entails, chances are that you’ve at least heard about it.
With the mounds of evidence, research, and statistics to back it up, it’s become more than just an idea to be considered. It’s a call-to-action, and one that has rapidly gained traction in the last few years as more and more organizations are focusing internally in order to boost productivity, promote creativity, increase retention, and drive positive results.
When you consider employees as the most valuable asset possessed by an organization, then it makes a lot of sense to focus your attention there.
So, what is employee engagement?
Here are a few different definitions to give you an idea, though you will see that the overall resounding theme is the same:
Wikipedia - Employee engagement is a property 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.1
BusinessDictionary - Emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her employment organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort in work related activities. The more engagement an employee has with his or her company, the more effort they put forth. Employee engagement also involves the nature of the job itself - if the employee feels mentally stimulated; the trust and communication between employees and management; ability of an employee to see how their own work contributes to the overall company performance; the opportunity of growth within the organization; and the level of pride an employee has about working or being associated with the company.2
Gallup - defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.3
Employee engagement, in a nutshell, is about one’s commitment to their organization and passion for their work, as per Gallup’s definition.
Gallup, Towers Perrins, and many other organizations researching employee engagement have discovered that there is a strong correlation between the level of employee engagement that a business has and their forecasted levels of success in many key areas, including productivity, retention, and profitability. To back that claim, here are several statistics based on studies done covering the impact and influences of employee engagement within organizations:
- Companies with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 147% higher EPS (earnings per share) compared with their competition. Companies with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee, in contrast, experienced 2% lower EPS compared with their competition. Gallup
- Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Gallup
- Engagement plummets to just 2% among teams with managers who ignore their employees, compared with 45% for teams led by managers who focus on weaknesses and 61% for teams led by managers who focus on strengths. Gallup
- In companies where both leaders and managers are perceived by employees as effective, 72% of employees are highly engaged. Towers Watson
- Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations), shrinkage (28%), and absenteeism (37%) and fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%), and quality defects (41%). Gallup
The three levels of employee engagement
In regards to employee engagement, there are three different categories into which an employee can fall at any given time. (Please note that though there are interchangeable adjectives that can be used to describe these three, I’m using the most standard here, as the characteristics are essentially the same).
1. Actively Disengaged
At this level, the employee is doing harm to your business. It can take many forms, such as theft, constantly wasting time on the clock, trash-talking the company in or outside of the workplace, or simply bringing fellow coworkers down with them through their constant negativity.
2. Not Engaged
An employee who is not engaged is basically trading their time for a paycheck. They will show up, they will do what is required of them, and they will clock out - that’s pretty much all you can expect. There is no effort to go beyond what is expected of them and there is little, if any, enthusiasm, or actual commitment to the pursuits of their organization. It’s a classic case of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” – and when one stops scratching, well, you know…
3. Actively Engaged
At this level, the employee is fully committed to their organization and uses discretionary effort to further the interests and success of the business. Going the extra mile is not a burden, but rather a given. These are your people who are fueling your success and believe in your company and it's mission. They are your brand ambassadors. Unfortunately, only about 30% of employees are actually actively engaged.
Keep in mind that while an employee may be in one category one week, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where they’ll be a month from then. It can shift up or down, and there are many factors that can facilitate that mental migration. By focusing on employee engagement, the aim is to nullify the negative factors in the workplace as much as possible and to promote the positive ones. These of course will vary from business to business, as each is unique and so too will be their culture, size, particular industry, and offered services or products.
By embracing employee engagement, the outcome, however, will be the same: increase employee engagement and you will increase the potential of your employees, which will increase productivity and profits, leading to increased shareholder returns and high customer satisfaction. Isn’t that the bottom-line for any business?
1. Employee engagement. (2017, January 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 1, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Employee_engagement&oldid=759918405
2. employee engagement. BusinessDictionary.com. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from BusinessDictionary.com website: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/employee-engagement.html
3. U.S. Employee Engagement. (Current) In Gallup. Retrieved March 2, 2017, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/180404/gallup-daily-employee-engagement.aspx