Employee engagement is quickly becoming one of the most important indicators in gauging work satisfaction. Employees today are looking for more than just a 9-to-5 job. They want to be involved in their work, enthusiastic about the organization they work for and committed to their fellow workers.
In a study of companies with over 500 employees, researchers found that 71% of managers felt that employee engagement was one of the most important factors in overall company success. Despite employee engagement being viewed as a positive company-wide, the majority of employees are disengaged at work. According to Gallup data, only 33% of employees reported they are engaged at work. Low engagement can be caused by several factors including lack of recognition by managers, poor company communication and not being aligned with the mission of the company. It’s clear that company leaders need to start viewing employee engagement as a strategic business objective because engaged employees lead to long-term employee retention, higher levels of productivity and improved quality of work.Low engagement can be caused by several factors including lack of recognition by managers, poor company communication and not being aligned with the mission of the company.
HR leaders are focused on improving employee engagement at their organization and retention is one of the key reasons. Organizations with high engagement reduce both turnover and hiring costs and disengaged employees are a major factor contributing to high employee turnover. Engaging employees is critical for retaining valuable talent and is an important piece of the employee satisfaction puzzle; as disengaged employees are more likely to leave their jobs. According to Forbes, employees who are engaged in their work are more likely to be motivated and remain committed to their employer. This leads to achieving more business goals and helping to drive the organization forward.
Employees who are engaged at work are more likely to be productive on a consistent basis – which leads to more revenue. Companies with a high level of engagement report 22% higher productivity according to Gallup data. Employers are quickly seeing this trend and investing more in employee engagement. The Workplace Research Foundation found that employees who are engaged are 38% more likely to have above average productivity. But is there a dollar amount that can be associated with an engaged employee? Actually, yes. Talent Culture found that increasing employee engagement investments by 10% can increase profits by $2,400 per employee per year.
Significance of employee engagement
When employees are engaged, they are more likely to invest in the work they do which leads to a higher quality of work produced. Engaged organizations have double the rate of success compared to less engaged organizations according to Harvard Business Review. Employees who are engaged are more involved and work harder while disengaged employees are likely to only do the bare minimum to get by. This holds true for organizations across multi-industries including healthcare organizations or factories. HBR also found that organizations which scored higher in employee engagement reported 48% fewer safety incidents and 41% fewer patient safety incidents.Engaged organizations have double the rate of success compared to less engaged organizations according to Harvard Business Review.
Employee engagement needs to go beyond a cool-looking foosball table in the break room, or shiny incentives like flexible work hours or bringing your dog to work. Employees who are truly engaged will be motivated to do their best work every day and stay with a company who is taking employee engagement seriously. By investing in employee engagement, your company will be able to increase productivity, work quality, and retain top talent. Good news – according to Gallup data, employee engagement is on the rise with 40% of employees engaged as of July 2020 – the highest level of employee engagement since Gallup began tracking in 2000.
What is employee engagement anyway?
Let’s take a step back. Employee engagement is such a hot topic but how is it defined?
According to Wikipedia, an engaged employee is “one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests. An engaged employee has a positive attitude towards the organization and its values. In contrast, a disengaged employee may range from someone doing the bare minimum at work (aka ‘coasting’), up to an employee who is actively damaging the company’s work output and reputation.”
Employee engagement has also become synonymous with concepts like employee satisfaction and the employee experience, which is more about the complete employee journey from hiring to when they leave their job.
Why is employee engagement so important?
For engaged employees who are happy and completely committed to their work, it’s more than just a paycheck – it is the dedication towards their employers and role that makes them passionate about their work, which is often reflected in their individual outcomes.
If you’ve been wondering why employee engagement is important and how to improve it, start with employee communication.
Employee communication remains the most essential tool to develop strong working relationships among employees and achieve higher productivity rates. Companies that offer clear, precise communication can swiftly build trust among employees. In recent years, studies about the neuroscience of trust have proven this.
Often, companies miss the core issues related to employee engagement because executives assume engagement is directly linked to salary and compensation. Most leaders figure employees leave the company due to the lack of promotional opportunities or the lure of better job packages elsewhere.
Connection, communication, and engagement are the three most vital aspects for the growth of an organization, both internally and externally.
However, a study conducted by the MSW Research and Dale Carnegie Training contradicted this particular theory, stating that, apart from just money, three other, strong and more important factors directly impact employee engagement. These include:
- Employee trust in the company’s leadership,
- Employee relationships with the management teams/supervisors, and
- Employee pride in being a part of the company.
Of these three factors, it turns out cultivating work relationships through proper, clear, and open communication is the core of improving engagement. (A fact that every Human Resource manager must take note of.)
Gallup employee engagement survey
Given these facts, it’s probably no surprise that companies large and small are investing enormous amounts of time and money on communication strategies to increase employee engagement.
Why do most engagement strategies and initiatives fail? Usually, they are designed to develop internal communication and employee commitment in generic ways rather than cultivating multidimensional lines of communication between and among employees.
An Employee Benefits News study conducted in 2017 on employee benefits found that most of the reasons cited by the 34,000 respondents about changing jobs were due to unsatisfactory conditions in terms of
- work-life balance,
- manager relationships, and
- career development.
There’s no reason for any of these conditions to hold your organization back; with the right approach to employee communication, in fact, each of these conditions can vastly improve employee engagement.
How to improve employee engagement
If you’re in HR, you must create an environment that encourages employees to naturally want to be involved in and care deeply about their work. If you want high levels of involvement, motivation, trust, commitment, and empowerment, invest your efforts in improving employee communication.
For large companies, ensuring employees are aligned with the changing priorities of the business is also vital. This is precisely why internal communication is even more essential today.
If employees lack relevant, accurate, engaging information and instruction, how can you expect them to do their jobs well (much less be excited about their work)? With proper communication, employees will minimize the time and resources they might otherwise waste.
Communication is also key to setting clear expectations. When employees lack guidelines about what’s expected of them, they won’t know precisely what they need to do, or by when. Communication in this area helps them prioritize tasks and plan their workdays efficiently.
Importance of effective communication in the workplace
Encouraging proper employee communication can build a strong bond between your company and your employees. With proper communication, employees start to identify themselves with the company’s vision, values, and goals. They are then enthusiastic about doing better and becoming more engaged in every aspect of their jobs.
That includes even your remote or deskless workers, or employees who might spend most of their time in the field. In fact, this is the population that’s most vulnerable to feeling disconnected from the company. If a large part of your workforce does not come into a central office every day and instead 1) works remotely from home, or 2) spends lots of time out in the field, you need to pay particular attention to what you can do to make sure your communication efforts reach those groups.
How can HR teams use communication to improve employee engagement?
When you improve employee engagement, you improve performance and therefore increase your own value as an HR professional.
HR teams can take a few key steps to ensure better employee engagement and effective communication. Here are some key drivers presented by the report published by Gallup on employee engagement:
- Develop clear internal lines of communication and execute the strategy effectively within the company.
- Enable and promote better organization transparency through communication.
- Effectively communicate business plans and strategies for every member of the team.
- Encourage open lines of communication within the company between employees.
- Recognize the efforts made by employees on various grounds and reward them well.
- Use a workforce communication platform to integrate your communication channels (intranet, email, mobile app, etc.) to target, personalize, and measure your internal communications. This will help you understand how best to communicate with your employees on the channel of their choice, and will vastly improve your employee engagement.
- Encourage your employees to use social media. More than 82% of employees believe that their work relationships, including communication, can improve greatly through social media channels.
Finally, if you want to create effective engagement and communication as an HR professional, you need to adopt a clear, confident mindset.
As Shiv Singh, author of Savvy: Navigating Fake Companies, Fake Leaders and Fake News, stated in a recent Culture, Comms, & Cocktails podcast: “It couldn’t be a more important time for an internal communicator. This is their time to lead from the front. The rule is [to be] much more of a strategist behind the communications. To be a trusted advisor in the post-trust era also means really deeply understanding the meaning of trust, and then what it takes to build trust.”
He made it clear that with low trust in business, internal communicators need to work harder to be mindful of ethics and fake news. Because the good news is though people don’t trust businesses, they do trust their employers. To increase the employee experience and improve communications, leaders need to cultivate this trust with engagement and the idea of “working as one.”
Learn more on how to increase employee engagement with our guide, 4 Steps to Improving Employee Engagement.