The concept of employee engagement is often confused with satisfaction or happiness; however, the true definition is deeper in meaning. According to Aon, a global professional services firm that advises on the topics of risk and human resources, employee engagement is defined as “the level of an employee’s psychological investment in their organisation.”
Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.
The impact of engagement on performance
In the 2015 Human Capital Trends Report for South Africa, research places ‘Engagement & Culture’, as well as ‘Leadership’, as the two most significant human capital trends for South Africa going forward.
Employee engagement has become a top business priority for senior executives, says a report by Harvard Business Review on the impact of employee engagement on performance.
In this rapid cycle economy, business leaders know that having a high-performing workforce is essential for growth and survival. They recognise that a highly engaged talent pool can increase innovation, productivity, as well as bottom-line performance, while reducing costs related to hiring and retention in highly competitive talent markets.
The role of leaders in employee engagement
The findings of the Harvard Business Review report, based on responses from more than 550 executives about employee engagement, show that many executives have yet to develop tangible ways to measure and tackle the goal of engagement.
Organisations need to understand what managers are doing in the workplace to create or destroy engagement, says James Harter and Amy Adkins, specialist writers for Harvard Business review. Leaderships’ behaviour related to communication, performance management and the employee’s individual strengths, strongly link to employee engagement and provide organisations with better insights into developing their engagement strategy – while raising the overall level of performance of the business.
Harvard Business review states that consistent communication – whether it occurs in person, over the phone, or electronically – is connected to higher engagement. Employees value communication from their manager not just about their roles and responsibilities but also about what happens in their lives outside of work. The best managers make a concerted effort to get to know their employees and help them feel comfortable talking about any subject, whether it is work related or not.
The positive potential of each individual
Building employees’ strengths is a far more effective approach than a fixation on weaknesses. A strengths-based culture is one in which employees learn their roles more quickly, produce more and significantly better work, stay with their company longer, and are more engaged.
Another study by Harvard Business Review states that a vast majority (67%) of employees who strongly agree that their manager focuses on their strengths or positive characteristics are engaged, compared with just 31% of the employees who indicate strongly that their manager focuses on their weaknesses.
When managers help employees grow and develop through their strengths, they are more than twice as likely to engage their team members. The most powerful step a manager can take for employees is to place them in jobs that allow them to use the best of their natural talents, adding skills and knowledge to develop and apply their strengths.
Employee engagement results in a productive workplace where employees feel safe – safe enough to experiment, to challenge, to share information and to support one another. In this type of workplace, team members are prepared to give the manager and their organisation the benefit of the doubt.