The current level of employee engagement in any organization is the best predictor of future success. Organizations where employee values align with the business goals stand a better chance of achieving success. Engaged employees are more productive, create lasting customer relationships, and help produce a stronger bottom line.
Engaged employees, therefore, are good for business. Conversely, disengaged employees are detrimental to a business or an organization. They erode morale, lower productivity, and decrease profitability. They increase turnover and thrive on mediocrity. In short, they threaten the sustainability of the organization. A recent Gallup poll found that in the organizations surveyed, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees was 2:1. Therefore on any given day, one third of the workforce is out of alignment with the business goals of their employer. Why?
The reason is simple. Achieving and maintaining employee engagement is difficult. Engagement is not up to the employer. It is not a program for the human resource department to initiate. It is a choice. Employees choose to engage with their employer when their personal values are aligned with their work duties. Maintaining positive employee engagement therefore is the result of how well the leaders in an organization interact with their workforce each day. There are four strategies organizations can employ to increase the level of employee engagement in their workforce.
One is to establish and maintain objective measurements of performance. Objectivity levels the playing field and treats everyone evenly and fairly. Whether measuring punctuality, production quotas, or quarterly sales targets, fairness builds trust. When trust increases, commitment to performance standards also increases.
A second strategy is to create an environment of accountability. Engaged employees want to own the outcomes of their work. When there is objective measurement of performance, employees are more willing to be held accountable for results. They take pride in their successes and responsibility for setbacks.
The third step in gaining engagement is to provide regular and honest feedback. Engaged employees want to know the score. If they are winning, they want to celebrate. If not, the engaged team wants to know how to improve. When the only feedback they receive is negative, they become skeptical and feel manipulated. The enlightened organization is the one which provides constant feedback, both good and bad. Regular, honest, and reliable feedback keeps the organization on track and nimble enough to make the small course corrections that prevent the need for drastic actions.
Finally, employee engagement increases when opportunities for professional development are offered. Successful organizations budget for and provide qualified individuals with professional development opportunities. They support both the individual’s goals as well as the organizational goals. Managed properly, everyone wins. The employee is enriched by learning new skills. The organization increases its competitive edge by developing its workforce. Most importantly, professional development is the foundation for succession planning. Today’s investment in both technical and essential skill development identifies and prepares tomorrow’s leaders. The long-term organizational goals become clear and achievable with an actively engaged workforce.
There is a powerful upside to actively fostering the culture of employee engagement. Organizations begin to discover the hidden shared values of their workforce. Shared values build relationships based on trust and mutual respect. Engaged employees, through regular and objective feedback, provide input that guides daily decisions. Good information, coupled with increased skill proficiency and objective measurement, increases productivity and organizational success. A clear vision, strong leadership, and daily vigilance will produce an engaged workforce and the best chance for future success.
Michael Boyd is the program manager for Business and Workforce Development at Hagerstown Community College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 240-500-2490.