“Employee engagement” is a term you’ve probably heard discussed in business circles numerous times before. Although the phrase is sometimes equated with those of “employee satisfaction” and “employee happiness,” these terms are not synonymous. Whereas employee happiness may be determined by one’s lack of stress or amount of free time at work, this does not equal an engaged employee. Similarly a satisfied employee may work regular 9:00-5:00 hours, while failing to contribute to the company’s overall goals and mission, and putting in little to no extra effort when problems arise. So what exactly makes an engaged employee, then?
Employee engagement is defined by Forbes as the emotional commitment an employee has to an organization and its goals. Employees are “engaged” when they (all employees, not just those at a certain level) are feeling fully involved and enthusiastic about their jobs and the goals of the company. Engagement is the ability and willingness to contribute to the company’s overall mission; and engaged employees see themselves as valuable contributors to this mission. An engaged employee uses discretionary effort, meaning that he or she recognizes when it is necessary to put in a bit of extra time on the job, and does so without being asked. For example; he or she keeps the door to the boutique open for a customer, even if it is 5 minutes ‘til closing, or he or she picks up a piece of trash from the office floor, even when the boss is not looking, or assists a coworker with a task, even though there will be no extra pay for involved.
Simply put, engaged employees lead to better and more successful business outcomes. However, you may currently be overestimating the number of your employees who are actually engaged on the job. A 2008 Gallup Poll study of employee engagement found that about 54 percent of United States employees are not engaged while at work, and 17 percent are completely disengaged. That leaves only 29 percent of American workers who are actually engaged on the job.
Yet for any business owner or human resources manager, employee engagement should be something that you constantly strive to achieve. Employee engagement leads to higher productivity, which leads to higher customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to higher profits and stock value. According to Fiona Chow in Fables from the Freelance Frontline, smart brands recognize that employee engagement can help to build internal brand champions, which in turn provide great customer service, which leads to better financial results – the Holy Trinity for business success.
To build employee engagement in your own company, it is essential to focus on creating a culture of engagement. Here are four tips for building employee engagement:
- Allow for two-way feedback – Communication from superiors to employees is common in nearly every business, however a way for employees to provide feedback is often missing. This upward flow of feedback is essential for helping employees feel that their opinions and voices are valued. Two ways that this can be implemented are through internal electronic surveys and frequent team meetings. Shared decision making is an excellent way to build employee engagement.
- Recognize the need for career development – The feeling of being “stuck in a dead-end job” can be a huge hindrance in attaining employee engagement. Recognize that all employees need opportunity for change and advancement to feel engaged. Give employees the chance for advancement and allow for discussions about their career tracks.
- Foster trust – Building trust is a slow process in any setting or relationship. But trust is integral to employee engagement. One of the quickest ways to shatter trust is when executives appear to break promises. All employees, at every level, should have a clear vision of the organization’s future, and stick to that vision, while working together to achieve a common goal.
- Communicate every employee’s role in the business’ success – Oftentimes, unengaged employees simply feel that their contribution to a company does not matter, or is overlooked. Helping employees to understand how they contribute to the success of the business, and how their contributions fit into “the big picture,” can help to build employee engagement.