Organizational leaders often toss around the term ‘employee engagement’ like it’s just another part of the corporate lingo. But, be warned, It’s not something to take lightly. In a recent article, Harvard Business Review referred to employee engagement as the “holy grail of the workplace.”
Employee engagement impacts every aspect of an organization’s performance and reputation. The more engaged employees are in their jobs, the more productive and innovative they can be.
What is employee engagement?
When one walks into a workplace and immediately senses the positive energy and commitment towards a common goal that employees demonstrate, that’s true employee engagement. It’s not about happiness, as someone can be happy in their job, but not truly aligned with the company mission or it’s values. It's about a shared belief in the direction the company is headed and a commitment to help it get there.
The challenges of measuring employee engagement
Some studies, like Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, indicate that employee engagement is somewhere around 13% of the global adult human population. In America, the rate is around one-third of adult workers. However, studies like these cannot measure what is going on in individual organizations. The experience that every worker has on the job, the opportunities to grow in a career, and even the management style of a team can all influence employee engagement.
Are there strategies to monitor employee engagement?
Any human resources practitioner can spot the signs of low employee engagement. For example, some of these red flags include high turnover rates, discontent on teams, and lack of productivity. The good news is that there are some ways to monitor and improve employee engagement in real time, instead of trying to turn things around once they've already started going in the wrong direction.
Employee pulse surveys
A traditional way to measure and monitor employee engagement is with an employee pulse survey, which asks employees to rate how well their employer is doing. This data can be helpful to pinpoint concerns that employees have, as well as measure what aspects of the workplace employees are sharing negative comments about.
Employee performance reviews
When employees are given regular performance reviews, they should also be asked how the management is doing with supporting their career goals. This can be an opportunity to find out if there are issues standing in their way to being more engaged in their work. Remember, employee reviews are not just for the worker level of an organization. Managers should be reviewed by their direct reports as well through 360 assessments or anonymous surveys to get a sense of what employees truly think about their working conditions.
Exit interviews with departing employees
A very revealing and worthwhile effort, exit interviews give departing employees a chance to give honest feedback about their experience at the company. This can highlight problems with management, problems with team structures, process issues, and other factors that have caused employees to disconnect.
Technology tools to help measure and improve employee engagement
In the last few years, a number of technology tools have emerged that support HR in the task of measuring and improving employee engagement.
Real-time employee engagement
There are a number of companies that have taken employee engagement management to the next level. Instead of limiting engagement data to one window of time (as in pulse surveys or annual reviews), technology allows HR to monitor and test new employee engagement in real time. Employees get used to checking in more often to share how they are feeling or to send a message to HR.
Collaborative employee engagement
It’s just as important for employees to take responsibility for their engagement levels as it is for companies to promote it. Collaborative technology gives management and employees a safe place to discuss challenges, review and accept suggestions, and just make the workplace better for all employees.
Integrated scheduling and onboarding
In many organizations, having one place to gather data, feedback, and reporting starts with the onboarding and recruitment process and takes it through the entire employee lifecycle. Employees can self-manage, sending suggestions to HR, getting scheduling updates, logging time, and taking brief surveys.
Offline tips for monitoring and increase employee engagement
While there are employee engagement products for every size and type of business, there could be reasons why an organization decides to handle this matter offline. If this is the case with your organization, there are still a few ways to monitor and increase employee engagement.
Human resources should make an effort to walk the floor daily. This means stopping to talk with employees, casually observing behaviour, and addressing any immediate issues. Look for employees who have alienated themselves from others, appear discontent in meetings, and report management issues for signs of low employee engagement.
Train managers to spot the signs of low employee engagement, and empower them to make changes to improve things. Part of leadership development is learning how to bring out the best in our people, therefore managers should have this focus in their training. Give them the tools to root out poor engagement and take the time to recognize employees to build morale when needed.
Move disengaged employees out of negative groups and give them a better experience. Don't allow employees to become ostracized or abused by peers. They will just look for another job. It's costly to lose even one employee. Promote or shift employees to more positive career experiences and teams where they can thrive. Remember, finding a disengaged employee is not about punishment but about reviving their interest in the company. The whole is to have a workplace where everyone feels safe, respected, committed, and included. When the company is all working together toward the same goal, that's where the real magic can happen.