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How to Engage Employees

May 6, 2011 by  
Filed under People Management

A Short Guide for Senior Managers

What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is more than a buzzword, it’s about creating a culture and an environment where employees want to go the extra mile and are proud to work for their employer.

Definition of Employee Engagement
Here are three examples of how different resources define employee engagement:

Wikipedia: “Employee engagement, also called work engagement or worker engagement, is a business management concept. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work, and thus will act in a way that furthers their organization’s interests.”

CIPD: “(Employee engagement) can be seen as a combination of commitment to the organisation and its values and a willingness to help out colleagues (organisational citizenship). It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer: it cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract.”

Harvard Business Review: “Engagement represents the energy, effort, and initiative employees bring to their jobs.”

When people talk about employee engagement, they sometimes refer to it as employee satisfaction, employee involvement or staff motivation.

Why is employee engagement important?
Dissatisfaction and reduced productivity obviously have a negative impact on the organisation, its profitability and its future. To those in senior management positions, hoping to shape the direction of the organisation, getting the support of all levels of employees is paramount. Without their support the best laid plans can fail or worse be blocked by employees, leaving senior managers exposed and confused.

Assuming that the correct hiring decisions have been made, it is wasteful to underutilise the people in an organisation. Top managers know that in order for them to succeed, they need to hire top talent to support them. Only mediocre managers hire people who are intellectually inferior to them or will be a ‘yes’ man or woman, rather than choosing people who will think for themselves and have a voice. Mediocre managers are creating a rod for their own back and will find themselves micromanaging their de-motivated and disengaged staff. Better to have people playing to their strengths and taking ownership of situations.

Engaged employees are more likely to bring their manager solutions rather than problems and to come up with insightful ideas and ways of improving the way they work. More stimulated and productive members of staff are happier and less prone to stress related illnesses, which ultimately cost the organisation money.

Creating employee engagement
There are many employee engagement surveys and tools you can use to find out the metrics of staff morale within your organisation, but you can probably ascertain this for yourself simply by speaking to a cross section of staff members or speaking to your Human Resources department for anecdotal evidence. Statistics about how engaged people are can be useful if you want to measure your organisation’s progress in improving engagement.

Since employee engagement is something which needs to be worked at on a consistent basis, we can take it as a given that it is an area that senior managers should be mindful of.

Before setting out to ‘fix’ employee engagement and boost staff motivational levels, it should be considered in line with the organisation’s vision, mission and values. Define what employee engagement looks like on a daily basis, how you’ll know it is improving and the financial impact of having an engaged workforce. Think about statistics such as how much staff turnover and low productivity is currently costing the organisation.

Who is responsible for employee engagement?
It is tempting to say that employee engagement is the responsibility of the HR department and that would be missing the point. Everybody who has contact with members of staff or who carries out work for the organisation is responsible for employee engagement.

How to engage employees
Contrary to what many managers believe, most members of staff are motivated more by feeling they and their contributions are valued, than by receiving their monthly salary.

Employees often complain that they have no idea where the company is heading or how they fit into it. They talk about departments operating as silos and the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Frustrations manifest as stress, health problems, conflict at work and people playing political games.

For senior managers, this means that you can start making a difference and begin engaging employees straight away by communicating effectively with your direct reports. Then ensure that they in turn communicate with their teams. The lines of communication work both ways, so set aside time each week to connect with your direct reports – even if it’s just for 15 minutes – to really listen to them and find out what’s going on at the front line.

Think about whether you can delegate earlier and involve your people in projects you’re working on. This has added benefits such as you having a fresh perspective on things, getting their ideas and input and being able to delegate some of the more operational activities so you can focus on being more strategic. The more time you have available for strategic thinking, the more you’ll be able to communicate clearly and the better engaged your people will be.

There are several steps to employee engagement, but the key ones are to:

  • Be clear about the business plan and how it relates to your department
  • Help your people to break the organisation’s goals down into departmental goals, team goals and personal goals
  • Reinforce the vision, mission and values of the organisation you work in
  • Encourage clear communication between staff and between departments
  • Listen to what people are saying and take it on board when making decisions
  • Keep people in the loop
  • Delegate earlier and involve people in projects

While the above steps and tips on employee engagement sound like common sense, applying them can be a little more tricky.

In our capacity as executive coaches and management trainers, we work with many of our clients one-to-one and in groups on all the areas covered above. The key is to start at the top and cascade the message down to all levels.

For more information on how we can help with employee engagement, please contact either Hannah McNamara or Lenka Hanzelova on (44) 20 7939 9910 or email info [at] with your contact details and we will call you back.

Copyright Hannah McNamara

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