It would be hard to argue against the notion that a company’s greatest asset is its employees. In today’s business environment where knowledge and innovation separate struggling or failing businesses from those that succeed, the quality of employees a company attracts and its ability to motivate and keep them can often make the difference.
However, attracting quality employees is only the first step (albeit a very important one). Without efforts to keep employees engaged, productivity and effectiveness will go down (and with them so will profits).
This is why employee engagement is key to a business’s success. In this short article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the factors that make up a good employee engagement strategy, the benefits of its successful implementation, and the likely consequences of failing to prioritize employee engagement.
The Changing Landscape of Employee Engagement
For as long as businesses have been around, it may seem strange to discover that the term ‘employee engagement only dates back to as recently as 1990. Coined by Boston University professor William Kahn, the concept was an eye-opener back then and has since become a must in any successful management strategy.
In the last 35 years, we have learned a lot about what factors go into personal motivation. This understanding, along with greater shifts in cultural dynamics, have helped to place employee engagement on the top of any business’s list of HR priorities.
Let’s take a look at some cultural dynamics that have changed during this time:
• From ‘The Me Decade’ to Millenials
When baby boomers reached adulthood in the 1970s, we saw a shift away from an emphasis on the collective towards an emphasis on self-realization and self-fulfillment. This led journalist Tom Wolfe to name the decade the Me Decade (a term that was embraced and became a part of popular parlance).
The Me Decade of the 1970s gave way to the Excellence Eighties which saw a dramatic shift away from planned economies to free-market economies and laissez-faire capitalism. This is where the concepts of self-realization and self-fulfillment that were prioritized in the 1970s were put to the use of businesses.
It should be of no surprise that, continuing on this trajectory, those who were born in this decade and the decade that follows – Millenials- have been given the moniker ‘The Me, Me, Me Generation’. An oversimplified and admittedly cynical description of this generation includes words such as ‘narcissism’ and ‘entitlement’, but delving into the psychological make-up of millennials is far more interesting and beneficial.
• Quiet Quitting and The Great Resignation – Current Manifestations of Empowerment
In today’s business environment, we come across newly-coined terms such as ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘the Great Resignation’. In contrast to prior generations, today’s workers have no qualms about changing jobs, changing companies – even taking off on completely new career trajectories in completely new sectors of activity.
Whereas workers from prior generations were more likely to stay with one company during the duration of their professional lives, today’s workers in the US change jobs, on average, every 4.2 years – this is according to data collected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Benefits of Employee Engagement
From Quiet Quitting to Powerful Persistence
Now that we have an understanding of the mindset of today’s workers and how this mindset has evolved, it would be irresponsible to not consider the implications.
When the priorities that grew out of the decade of self-realization and self-fulfillment were then put to the service of business, what transpired was not negative in terms of economic growth and profits. On the contrary, the 1980s are known as a decade of tremendous economic growth (albeit not for everyone, and of course there were many other factors involved).
Some of the benefits of a successful employee engagement strategy include:
1. Improved Employee Retention Rates
An engaged employee is one who is more likely to stay with the company longer. This equates to: lower recruitment costs; lower onboarding costs; a likely increase in productivity as the company benefits from a more experienced workforce.
2. Increased Productivity
An employee with more enthusiasm for his or her work is far more likely to go the extra mile. Additionally, the longer an employee stays with the company, the chances of them knowing how to successfully complete their tasks and add value increase proportionally.
3. Better Customer Service
The pride and enthusiasm a worker shows for their work are easily apparent. His or her co-workers will notice, and the customers will notice, too. These positive effects are contagious, which is why a successful employee engagement strategy will invariably create a positive ripple effect throughout the company and extend to its customers and/or investors.
Employee engagement centers around employee empowerment. This means that an engaged employee feels appreciated. He or she feels like they can make a positive contribution to the company, they can put their talents on display, and are thus eager to do so.
An employee will reveal his or her level of engagement in a number of ways:
• Taking Initiative
An engaged employee understands his or her role and the value they bring. They are confident and far more likely to take the initiative without needing to be prompted and instructed to do so.
• Effective Communication
An engaged employee feels valued. He or she knows they will be listened to and that what they have to say is important. Effective communication then leads to fewer unforeseen problems and a greater capacity for teamwork and problem-solving.
• Innovation and Unique Solutions
An engaged employee feels free to explore out-of-the-box thinking which greatly increases the opportunities for innovation and unique solutions to problems and/or ideas that generate increased efficiency, productivity, and overall effectiveness.
What Happens When Employee Engagement Is Neglected?
The Descent Towards Quiet Quitting
While a successful employee engagement strategy will lead to a positive ripple effect that permeates the entirety of a company, the lack of one will invariably create the inverse ripple effect.
Poor employee engagement leads to poor communication. This, in turn, slows down internal processes and will invariably lead to more problems and even stagnation.
Furthermore, the negative effects of poor employee engagement are further exacerbated when seen from the larger perspective of the market. Since employee engagement is a priority for companies nowadays, failing to implement a successful employee engagement strategy means that you are giving away a competitive edge to other companies in your sector.
Important Steps To Ensure Employee Engagement
Step 1 – Recruitment
A successful employee engagement strategy begins at the recruitment stage. It is important to vet the candidates for those who are likely to conform with and exemplify company culture and the company’s ethos. A candidate who has the requisite skill set and experience is a good start, but it’s not enough. He or she should demonstrate the soft skills (or interpersonal skills) that are likely to lead to success in terms of employee engagement.
Step 2 – Clear Channels of Communication
Effective employee engagement doesn’t happen overnight, and there will always be obstacles and setbacks. However, when employees are comfortable sharing and expressing potential problems or difficulties (or potential ideas for improvement), these obstacles and setbacks are easily overcome – if not outright avoided.
Step 3 – Acknowledge Appreciation
Stimulating employee engagement means recognizing and rewarding an employee’s achievement and/or effort. There are a variety of ways this can be accomplished (some more effective than others), and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for rewarding an employee’s success. That will depend on the individual as well as the team dynamic within the company.
In order to develop the most appropriate rewards program for your specific company, it’s worth looking at employee engagement ideas to motivate your team that have proven effective in other work environments.
In a Nutshell
A company’s greatest asset is often its employees. And in today’s highly competitive labor market, it’s important to be able to attract the best workers, keep them motivated, and retain them. This is one of the strongest reasons why employee engagement has gone from a new buzzword in the 1990s to a priority for companies in the 2020s.
Employee engagement is synonymous with employee empowerment. It involves having a worker understand the value they bring to a company with their talents and skills, encouraging the expression of those talents and skills, and acknowledging the successful expression of such.
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