03 July 2015 15:23:12 IST

Scoring high on employee engagement

Companies need to win hearts and minds of staff to ensure superior performance

Employee engagement is a top priority in organisations worldwide. To benchmark the commitment of their employees to consistently act in the best interest of the company, many organisations are defining what employee engagement actually means.

It is essential to explore the real issues of employee engagement and work towards integrating it with corporate strategy, how HR offers solutions to support business delivery, how employee engagement impacts business performance, and how it drives the outcomes of HR measurement and analysis.

Employee engagement can be strengthened by maintaining transparency and fairness, just as employee disengagement dilutes the spirit of the organisation and leads to unfairness.

No clear definition

One big issue with the concept is that there is no clear definition. If you take a cross section of employee engagement definitions from practitioners, corporations, and academic researchers, you will find extensive variations.

The Gallup Organisation, potentially the most widely recognised name associated with employee engagement due to their bestselling book, First, Break All the Rules, defines engaged employees as those who, “work with a passion and feel a profound connection to their company” and “drive innovation and move the organisation forward”. The International Survey Research (ISR) defines employee engagement as, “a process by which an organisation increases commitment and continuation of its employees to the achievement of superior results.”

ISR separates commitment into three parts: cognitive, effective, and behavioural, or think, feel and act. Dell Inc. defines it thus: “To compete today, companies need to win over the minds (rational commitment) and the hearts (emotional commitment) of employees in ways that lead to extraordinary effort”.

Ignite enthusiasm

Such a vision will not become a ubiquitous reality quickly. But it can happen… and progress can take place over a period of time if we just ignite the enthusiasm, step back, and give people a chance.

Workforce engagement can have an impact on the conduct of business through effective communication within the organisation. It reveals that a strong story line that provides a clear, pooled vision for the organisation ensures employee engagement.

Employees need to understand not only the purpose of the organisation they work for but also how they contribute to that. It is believed that 60 per cent of employees do not know the vision and mission of their company.

Unless the CEO and other leaders ‘walk the floor’, take interest in the development of people, provide orientation, and offer them praise and recognition frequently, the workforce is not likely to be engaged. Employees, irrespective of their titles, have to brainstorm constantly to spark innovation.

Sense of purpose

Employees seek meaningful contribution through their work, and unless organisations provide a logical meaning, employees are likely to quit. Many employees experience a greater search for meaning in the workplace than in life. Holbeche and Springett say that high levels of engagement can only be achieved in workplaces where there is a shared sense of destiny and purpose that connects employees at an emotional level and raises their personal aspirations.

The more the differences ofopinion, the greater dis-engagement.

Any organisation eager to achieve quick results using employee engagement as a tool must proceed with prudence and according to an inclusive plan.

Organising boot camps, leveraging the company’s strengths and weaknesses, business culture, geographical presence, laws of the land and the firm’s vision and mission together will yield an optimum level of employee engagement.