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Saturday 20 January 2018
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Engage Employees

In a recent article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an international association for human resource professionals, the author presents American and international research findings on the relationship between employee engagement and organisation competitiveness. She states, among other things, that employee engagement has emerged as a critical driver of business success in today’s competitive environment, as it promotes retention of talent, fosters customer loyalty and improves organisational performance and stakeholder value.

My article will summarise the research findings and their implications for our own global competitiveness.

Employee engagement is one of the new “buzz words” in management today, and the international research is suggesting that we in the Caribbean had better get on board with the concept if we want to be globally competitive.

Being a relatively new concept, employee engagement has several definitions. It has been variously defined as the extent to which employees feel a sense of commitment to their organisation, to its values, goals and objectives, and consciously and conscientiously work toward achieving those goals and objectives; the extent to which employees find value in their work, want to work and want to contribute to their organisation’s success; and the extent to which employees choose to invest their physical, mental and emotional energy in their work and their organisation.

However defined, employee engagement has to do with employees’ commitment to helping their organisation achieve its goals.

Research findings:

The SHRM article highlights several research findings on employee engagement that demonstrate its link to competitiveness. Some of these findings are as follows:

•Highly engaged employees perform 20% better than disengaged employees and are 87% less likely to leave their organisation.

•Engaged employees work harder, are more loyal and are more likely to “go the extra mile” than disengagement employees.

•Engaged employees have been found to be five times less likely to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time accident than disengaged employees. In one study, the average cost of a safety accident for engaged employees was US$63, while the average cost for disengaged employees was US$392. This company was able to save over a million US dollars by increasing employee engagement.

•In another study, the quality of service and customer loyalty increased as employee engagement increased. This finding has implications for organisations in the service industry in particular, banks, insurance companies, hotels, restaurants, and, of course, the public service.

•In a global survey of employee engagement of 50,000 employees in 27 countries, high engagement organisations were found to have almost ten times as many committed, high-effort workers as low engagement organizations.

And the results keep on coming back: employee engagement drives organisational performance.

Drivers of employee engagement

The SHRM article identifies several drivers of employee engagement in organisations, based on extensive research on the topic. These include:

•An employee-friendly organisational

culture

•Good work/life balance

•Meaningful work

•Supportive managers and co-workers

•Adequate resources to do the job

•A culture of trust, respect, integrity and learning

•Clear consistent and honest communication from management

•Positive management/employee relations

•Progressive human resource practices

Interestingly, these last three drivers of employee engagement appear to be the weakest areas in our local and regional organisations. In a recent survey of the satisfaction levels of over 9,000 employees in more than 15 territories in the Caribbean, only 42% of those surveyed were satisfied with the communication in their organisations, only 47% with management/employee relations, just 48% with their leadership and management and less than half (49%) with their organisation’s human resource management practices. These results suggest a low level of employee engagement in our local and regional organisations, which could negatively impact our global competitiveness.

Engaging employees

So how do we increase employee engagement in our organisations? Again, the research can assist us here. First of all, the studies suggest that it is the leaders and managers of organisations who are the most important enablers of employee engagement. Leaders and managers who communicate clearly, consistently and honestly, behave with integrity and demonstrate adherence to their organisation’s core values, keep their word, show respect and care for employees as individuals, take responsibility for successes and failures, set realistic performance expectations, and defend their staff, are more likely to have engaged employees.

Secondly, human resource policies and practices that are objective, transparent, developmental, clearly defined and consistently applied, reward-oriented, rather than punishment-oriented, and show concern for employees, are also more likely to produce an engaged workforce.

But the first step in increasing employee engagement is to find out where it is in your organisation – to measure it. As the old management saying goes, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

And if you can’t manage it, you can’t improve it.” It is only after you measure your level of employee engagement that you can identify your managerial and organisational weaknesses, the gaps that exist between where you are and where you want to be and what you need to focus on to bridge the gaps.

Thankfully, more and more local and regional organisations are recognising the value and importance of measuring their employees’ engagement and satisfaction levels and are taking the necessary actions to increase them and give their organisations a competitive advantage.

Quality Consultants Ltd is a business research and management consulting firm.

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Guardian Life of the Caribbean Limited.

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