It’s safe to say that in 2020, the world changed.
From people’s health being compromised like never before, global economies being tested as well as business being affected worldwide, the beginning of the decade marked a difficult time for many.
In the context of business, the coronavirus has had such a ripple effect, it has literally revolutionised entire industries, consequently impacting millions of jobs. Between the mass redundancies and the transition to remote working for those who could, the future of work is being defined as we speak. Whilst this may sound dramatic, it’s not.
Whilst some companies are now trying to implement some sense of norm by returning to the office on a roster basis, a large number haven’t and don’t plan to. This means that many employees now have to make peace with remote working becoming a permanent working arrangement.
Whilst it has its positives, remote work has also unfortunately created a connection gap for many. What we took for granted pre COVID-19 such as water cooler chats, lunch with colleagues, a passing “hi, how are you?” from a peer, etc. quickly vanished, leaving employees feeling isolated and in search of human connection again.
Inevitably, in re-evaluating their connection with team members, many also reported reassessing their connection with their company. From the decline of work-life balance to the drastic change in work environment, it’s only natural employee commitment and engagement has plummeted.
With many businesses having to ride out the storm that was (and still is) COVID-19, we fully understand that dedicating time to nurturing your people may not have been considered a top priority.
However, if businesses truly understood the positive ripple effects employee engagement has, both for the business and their employees, they would definitely be going all in, especially now.
If, like many others, your business has suffered from the coronavirus crisis, we highly recommend putting the time towards creating an employee engagements strategy. It might just be what keeps you afloat and thriving post crisis…
Curious to find out how? Read on to discover why employee engagement is worth investing in, even now. But first, let’s clarify…
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment, connection and care employees have towards their organisation and its goals. It measures how motivated people are to put in extra effort for their organisation, and a sign of how committed they are to staying there.
Unlike popular belief, employee engagement does not refer to employee happiness. Someone might be happy at work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re working hard, productively on behalf of the organisation.
While company perks such as game rooms, company cars, free food or gym memberships are great–and may be beneficial for other reasons–making employees happy doesn’t necessarily make (or keep) them engaged at work.
In that same vein, employee engagement shouldn’t be confused with job satisfaction either, as this relates to factors which the organisation has control over such as pay, benefits and job security. In fact, higher salaries have been proven not to necessarily correlate with higher levels of employee engagement. And while 89% of employers think employees leave for more money, only 12% actually do.
Mistakenly, many businesses implement “employee satisfaction” surveys to measure employee engagement. Whilst these pulse check-ups are useful, they tend to only delve into superficial short-term metrics and are not capable of demonstrating how engaged someone is or not (which tends to happen over the long-term).
For instance, a satisfied employee might show up for their daily 9-to-5 without complaint. But that same “satisfied” employee might not go the extra mile on their own or be actively involved in advancing organisational goals.
Bearing that in mind, employee engagement needs to be a component of a holistic business strategy intended to immerse employees in the heart of the company. It’s about creating an emotional connection with the company to give them the drive to put in discretionary effort as well as a reason to push through when challenges arise.
Indeed, when rating their engagement, employees tend to base their feedback on how they feel rather than what they think. Therefore managers and leaders have a significant role to play to create an environment where employees feel secure and accepted for their individuality as well as recognised for their talent through job assignments, trust, recognition, day-to-day internal communications, etc.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Why is employee engagement important?
Identified as one of the top 5 global business strategies, 71% of managers feel that employee engagement is one of the most important factors in overall company success.
But with only 12% of overall employees reporting feeling engaged at work, it begs the question: do companies truly understand the benefits of having engaged employees (or the drawbacks of not having them)?
For engaged employees who are happy and completely committed to their work, it’s about 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. Actively engaged employees tend to be more optimistic, team-oriented, go above and beyond, solution-oriented, selfless, show passion for learning, pass along credit but accept blame.
On the other hand, disengaged employees tend to only do the bare minimum (what we also call ‘coasting’), adopt a 9-to-5 time clock mentality, have an unwillingness to participate in social events outside the office or stay apart from colleagues.
Evidently, such behaviour can have a negative, and even actively damaging, impact on the company’s work output and reputation. It manifests through pessimism, self-centeredness, high absenteeism, focus on monetary worth, accepting credit but passing along blame, etc.
Seeing both sides of the coin, there is no doubt companies gain more by having engaged employees than the other way around. But what are the exact benefits? Let’s find out together…
What are the benefits of employee engagement?
For the company
1. Improve performance & boost productivity
According to the Harvard Business Review, engaged organisations have double the success rate compared to less engaged organisations.
In fact, the Workplace Research Foundation found that engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above average productivity, whilst companies with a high level of engagement have 22% higher productivity according to Gallup data.
This, of course, translates to both high performing employees and businesses. In fact, translated into dollars, Talent Culture found that increasing employee engagement investments by 10% can increase profits by $2,400 per employee per year.
2. Reduce risk and absenteeism
HBR also found that organisations which scored higher in employee engagement reported 48% fewer safety incidents as well as 41% fewer patient safety incidents.
Employees who are engaged feel energised by their work and actually maintain positive mental health. By being more present, focused and aware of their environment, they are less likely to put themselves at risk, and can even go as far as prevent dangerous situations.
A Gallup survey also showed that highly engaged companies also present 41% lower absenteeism.
Whilst excessive patterns of absenteeism can be concerning, on the other hand, employees taking occasional days off can be a good sign that they are engaged. This means they feel secure in their role, and confident that one missed day won’t affect the work to be accomplished.
3. Retain talent
Before COVID-19, 53% of employees were confident that if they quit or lost their current job, they would be able to find a comparable position within six months.
In the current context, employees might think twice before moving on to another company. However, a company fostering employee engagement, and consequently a sense of security and personal wellbeing, stands more of a chance to retain their staff long-term, even post-crisis.
Employee engagement strategies also prevent high turnover, accordingly reducing hiring and training costs. It also contributes to the company’s reputation and is beneficial for new hires in the longer term.
4. Foster creativity and innovation
Finding ways to drive employee engagement, whether by giving staff more responsibilities or a challenge to solve, results in boosting creativity, innovation and ultimately the organisation’s productivity.
By possessing an owner’s mentality, engaged employees are actively invested in the organisation’s long-term success and understand how their day-to-day responsibilities positively contribute to business outcomes as well as how the company achieves its goals.
Creating a culture of employee engagement requires checking in with employees to ensure that the company’s mission aligns with the ways they currently work and the ways that they want to work. Getting them involved is essential in creating systems and processes that enhance quality and productivity.
5. Increase customer satisfaction
As per Sir Richard Branson’s quote “take care of your employees and they will take care of your clients”
Team members who are passionate about both their work and your business are often the best people to interact with your customers. Why? Simply because their passion is infectious, and your customers will take notice. In fact, we’ll go right ahead and say that your employees are your best brand ambassadors!
Those who believe in the value of helping customers, and also feel valued by their organisation, are far more likely to deliver a better customer experience and increase satisfaction.
For an employee
1. A sense of purpose and meaning
Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life. Finding a purpose gives meaning to one’s life, and being of service to others is a big part of that.
Engaged employees spontaneously want to contribute, move the needle, support a company that aligns with their personal values.
In fact, with more time on their hands and less distractions available during lockdown, many have reported questioning their career choices and personal drivers in life.
More than a job, employees are now looking for companies with a clear mission and values, giving them a sense of purpose, and fulfilling more than just their basic and financial needs.
2. A sense of belonging
In the same vein as being aligned to a company’s mission and values, company culture and internal communication have a lot to do with employee engagement.
Feeling accepted for who they are and being able to express themselves freely is a key component to creativity, productivity and all the other benefits employee engagement provides a company.
Whether it’s a casual and familiar atmosphere or a competitive driven environment, engagement comes from a strong sense of belonging and alignment with their peers.
3. Increased career opportunities
Engaged employees feel naturally inspired to go the extra mile, not only to meet their own goals, but to support the entire company in any possible way.
In the context of COVID-19, many have had to reinvent themselves and their scope of work, taking on extra responsibilities outside their specialty.
As a result, not only did they get the opportunity to explore new avenues and learn new skills, but they also revealed their strengths, positioning themselves as true assets for the company.
This resilience and agility doesn’t go unnoticed, as it directly impacts employee performance in times of crisis. This can make all the difference for a business riding the wave.
4. Better employee health
Engaged workplaces tend to show more respect for employees’ needs, encouraging employees to appropriately care for their health.
Studies have shown that engaged employees are less likely to be obese and to suffer from chronic diseases. On the flip side, they’re more likely to eat healthier and to exercise.
Healthy employees provide numerous benefits for an organisation. Establishing policies and practices such as flexible schedules, fresh fruits and veggies, physical activities as a team, as well as positive peer pressure, can benefit the company as a whole by decreasing absenteeism & increasing productivity.
5. Better home life
Engaged employees have happier home lives, according to a Kansas State study. Satoris Culbertson, one of the researchers on this study states:
“[…] individuals who were engaged in positive experiences at work and who shared those experiences with significant others perceived themselves as better able to deal with issues at home, became better companions, and became more effective overall in the home environment.”
In other words, engaged employees are beneficial to more than just your workplace; they are beneficial to their families too. They don’t complain about their job to a significant other, have the energy to play with the kids after work, and generally contribute to a positive home atmosphere.
All things considered, employee engagement is an extremely powerful strategy for companies in many aspects. Not only beneficial for businesses, it also has a positive impact on society as a whole, with everyone working together with a higher sense of purpose.
Interestingly enough, current data suggests that employee engagement is underestimated by the majority of companies. But in a world where purpose is on the rise, will companies last without a strategy in place to drive engagement?
In building back better, companies around the world will have no choice but to invest in employee engagement should they wish to survive post crisis. Is your business ready?