What is employee engagement

Employee engagement is a topic which has been high on our agendas for some time now, and the pandemic has further sharpened minds around the need to genuinely value and invest in our employees.

To ensure we all know what we’re referring to though, let’s start with an explanation of what we mean here by “employee engagement”. We’re referring to a context in which employees feel a close connection with their employer, which encourages them to feel more committed, empowered and involved. This is then reflected in their attitude towards their work.

Having engaged employees is of value to both employers and their staff, for different reasons maybe, but ultimately to the same end.

What’s the value to employers

Whilst media headlines may focus on the redundancies we’ve seen already, with tens of thousands more expected, for many employers the challenge of retaining staff, ensuring they feel valued and connected, and enabling them to contribute in these exceptional circumstances is arguably of greater concern.

There are a number of widely-accepted benefits of a successful employee engagement strategy from the perspective of employers, including, but not limited to:

  • Increased staff effectiveness
    • Employees who are invested in their jobs and employers will outperform their disengaged counterparts
  • Improved staff retention
    • Numerous studies support the notion that engaged employees have lower turnover rates than their disengaged colleagues
  • Reduced staff absenteeism
    • Research shows that organisations with highly engaged workforces report fewer problems with absenteeism
  • Being seen as an attractive employer
    • Current and former employees influence how you’re perceived as a brand, as an employer
  • Higher customer loyalty
    • Common sense dictates that employees who are happy and fulfilled in their work provide superior customer service
  • More innovation and creativity
    • By their very nature engaged workplaces value individuals and promote a culture of innovation and creativity

Why engagement matters to staff

Staff are people, with a natural desire to be respected for what they know and are capable of. They want to have ideas and them get a fair hearing. They want to be trusted to deliver within agreed frameworks but to have scope on the how they do that.

No manager should want to be telling their team how to do their work in great detail, they might as well do it themselves. Moreover though no member of staff, no individual, wants to just do exactly what they’re told to do, exactly how it’s proscribed for them to do. Where’s the enjoyment in that, where’s the job satisfaction, the sense of achievement?

We all want to feel valued and empowered, and we all need our employers to show that they care. If this only happens, at best, in the run of an annual performance review, or on completion of a milestone, then it won’t last for long. If our employee experience is one where we are feeling nurtured, encouraged to grow and to contribute, then we can work most days with a positive intent. And we want to do that, work takes up too much of our time and energy for it to be a drag on us, a burden.

Where to start?

A new model of remote working has been forced upon us, not all of it is positive. However, the positives in terms of staff being trusted to do what they need to do, to achieve their objectives, without being visible all of the time, without managers looking over shoulders, is of massive mutual benefit and needs to be harnessed when some form of in-person working becomes possible again.

The novelty of working from home has worn off for many employees who now feel isolated and weary of spending all day long in front of a screen, craving human interaction. Therefore a model where employees do come in to offices and interact with their colleagues, have some meetings in-person, and spend time as a team is a positive outlook. It doesn’t need to mean a return to being office-based, 5 days per week, back to every day commuting, and it definitely can’t mean a return to close management of teams you keep in sight.

It’s in everyone’s interests to not let that just happen

This should be the catalyst which drives new employee engagement strategies, built on trust and collaboration.

We’ll explore this further, in more detail, over the coming weeks so subscribe to our newsletter to be kept updated on this and other #leadership topics.