March 10, 2017
Written by Dana Youngren
Despite the increasing need to increase workforce productivity, employee engagement is often an afterthought. So why don’t companies focus more on this important, productivity-driving metric? And how prevalent is this problem? According to the Gallup report, actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Even the most efficient workplaces are likely to be staffed by employees with very low engagement and job satisfaction ratings.
For many organizations, this ratio results in low productivity, increased turnover, and missed market opportunities, all of which result in reduced revenue. But how do you achieve the ROI and benefits of employee engagement? What does a perfectly engaged employee look like? And how do you cultivate this most valuable of company assets?
Your Key Contributors
Depending on the organization, perfectly engaged employees may have a number of characteristics in common, some of which are easier to observe or measure than others.
The most engaged employees:
- Understand and can articulate how their role fits into the bigger picture, and they are committed to being a key contributor to the bottom line.
- Invest more time and energy in their work than their disengaged counterparts. They go above and beyond what’s required to meet minimum job requirements.
- Set and meet aggressive goals and deadlines, proactively raising the bar for their own performance in a way that is quantifiable. They are productive, not just “busy.”
- Set an example for other employees. These are the employees you wish you could clone.
- Are loyal. They reinvest their skills in the organization, taking opportunities to grow within the company structure rather than looking for greener pastures at other companies.
The Dream Team
What does a team of perfectly engaged employees look like? It’s your dream team. It’s a team whose enthusiasm is infectious – not only to their department but to other pockets of the organization. Highly engaged teams collectively understand how the whole team’s role fits into the bigger picture and how their activities as a team impact the bottom line. They orchestrate their own continuous improvement processes – for the good of the entire team as well as for the benefit of individual employees. They proactively identify and resolve process issues as they arise. They take the initiative to remove potential obstacles, rather than waiting for problems to affect other employees or teams.
It may be easier than you think to spot highly engaged teams. In many cases, you will find them having lunch together – whether in the cafeteria or a conference room – just because they want to, not because they have to. They aren’t “escaping” to various local eateries on their own, leaving as early and returning as late as possible. While everyone needs to take a break during the workday, highly engaged employees don’t live for the lunch hour.
When whole teams are engaged, the rewards to the organization are inarguable. According to the Gallup research, “Engaged teams show 24% to 59% less turnover, 10% higher customer ratings, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, 28% less shrinkage, 70% fewer safety incidents, and 41% less absenteeism.”
While there are any number of factors that go into fostering engagement among employees and teams – factors that may vary depending on company size, industry, and location – three crucial components include a company culture of empowerment, appropriate management training, and tools that facilitate employee collaboration.
Company culture sets the stage for employee engagement. A company culture of empowerment is one that not only values but expects creative thinking, enthusiasm, and initiative from its employees. It’s one that encourages innovation, project ownership, and active participation – and articulates those values on a regular basis at every level of the organization.
With the stage properly set, managers are the boots on the ground, helping to drive employee performance. But managers cannot be expected to know automagically how to get new employees engaged and keep them engaged over the long term. Formal development programs, periodic coaching, and an available support system can help ensure that managers do not become a stumbling block to employee engagement and organizational success.
Finally, the right knowledge management solution can allow employees to collaborate and communicate with minimum friction, helping them find, analyze, and share the information they need at the exact moment they need it. Streamlining these critical day-to-day activities removes technological barriers to employee engagement, equipping managers and their employees with the tools to be successful – and empowering whole teams to live out the company’s cultural values.
A Positive Impact
Organizational research shows that cultivating employee engagement is an investment that pays off, regardless of your industry. According to Gallup’s 2016 Q12 Meta-Analysis, employee engagement consistently has a positive impact on key performance outcomes such as revenue, profit, and productivity. With the potential to provide ROI at all levels of the organization, employee engagement can also serve as a valuable competitive differentiator for companies that are willing to invest in it.
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