Employee engagement is critical to any business success, however there is no single definition or universal one that is accepted. However closest one to our business would be the definition of Employee engagement by CIPD: It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement has to be offered by the employee and cannot be required as part of the employment contract. This definition does implie that it’s discretionary, however it can be supported and nurtured by employer with the right tools and meeting the needs of employee. What we know is that employee engagement has 3 dimensional concepts: Emotional – being very involved with ones work on emotional level Physical – being willing to go extra mile for the employer Cognitive – focusing very hard while at work. (Bridger, 2015) (CIPD, 2018)
“A longitudinal study by Towers Watson with global reach analyzed data gathered from opinion surveys of over 664,000 employees from more than 50 companies representing a range of industries and sizes. The study measured engagement alongside more traditional business performance measures over 12 months. Those companies with a highly engaged workforce improved operating income by 19.2% over the 12 month study period, and those companies with low engagement scores saw operating income decline by 32.7% over the same period. Similarly, those companies with high engagement scores demonstrated a 13.7% improvement in net income growth compared to a decline of 3.8% in low engagement companies.” (Egageforsuccess, 2015)
Knowing the 3 dimensional concepts can allow understanding it deeper and taking correct approach to work towards increasing engagement. Most common theme though is emotional and cognitive where physical needs improvement. Every business results have direct impact to its performance that is one of the easier ways how we can measure it and capture the levels of it. Though there are many researches how increasing employee engagement it benefits to business performance as a whole it actually does state simple statement that business who undergoing challenging times have these issues and have to reflect on themselves.
Employee engagement concept can sometimes be mixed with other similar one’s the organizational commitment, employee involvement and job satisfaction. It does feel like they are employee engagement, however organizational commitment is based on creating environment for employee to feel compelled to work, and is focused on compulsion. For company to give employee power for autonomous decision making and creating involvement through empowerment is another similarity however one can only be giving to already engaged employee. Job satisfaction concepts is probably the most talked this day as its focused on keeping employee happy at work and leaves all work of engagement to employer. It does not guarantee workers who are not fully satisfied to give their best for the companies interest. Where job satisfaction concept as well is one way transaction to employee. (Bridger, 2015)
If we think of employee engagement as light bulb that needs to be switched on, we have more of a complex switch to deal with. However we have a clear guide to do so. The report that has been done by David McLeod and Nina Clarke has identified that these enablers for employee engagement the strategic narrative, integrity, employee voice and engaging managers and Though Emma Bridge has added Employee involvement as a further enabler. These enablers however are dependent on each other, to give employee purpose and meaning you need compelling strategic narrative, where managers need to be the delivering by being true leaders and communicating it. Communication connected to employee voice, as employees should be seen, as a central of solution, letting them be more present and involved in organization. Employees also can benefit this way to support the craft of their roles by aligning with their strengths. (Bridger, 2015)
Though we can speak on many different levels about employee engagement where it starts how to deliver it and who owns it. The most important part in organization is that it must be aligned. To succeed this through organizational transformation we have to align our culture with strategic leadership and employee engagement. It is critical to enable cultural change and be ready to adapt in todays world. Corporate components have to be reflective of company’s goals but more so to reflect culture, leadership and engagement, as having them aligned business can not only declare its engagement goal but also have a strong road map to deliver one. (Engamentforsuccess, 2018)
In search for the best example of employee engagement that we could benefit most, I have come across the WIFI model, which is made of some basic components that when brought together are very powerful. Model is based on four key elements that drive employee engagement: well being, information, fairness, involvement. (Cook, 2008)
Well being is the most important to our employee as it’s how they feel about organization as being part of it as well as how organization looks after them. Part of well-being is their job design and structure where we can help employee to engage by providing sufficient challenge and tools to achieve it. And its one of the elements that can falls into emotional dimension where employee can connect in emotional level as this is as well part of how their immediate line managers care for them and support in their roles. Where information is fundamental as its giving clarity on business direction and goals, its simply keeps employee connected to employer through keeping him informed. And is fully delivered by the business and maintained via senior leadership. Information though is easily linked to Involvement, which is actually responsible for communication and plays vital role in WIFI model. Though communication is a two way process it’s the one that can bind all 4 WIFI. Fairness is critical in todays world not only its part of employee journey but as well its their journey while in the business, ensuring they are developed and invested whilst working for us and recognized and rewarded.
Hallmark, whom experienced a large merger of five companies in the early 2000s. Hallmark concentrated in all the WIFI areas; well-being, information, fairness and involvement. To help create a new company ethic, they created a new vision in line with company values. The new vision was called “Enriching lives and relationships”. Hallmark started to build a high-performance team with members with more self-awareness. Their strategy was based on Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence”, which consists of two main abilities; recognizing and managing out emotions and recognizing the influence our emotions has on others (Goleman, 2006)In addition of using the Emotional Intelligence the HR team chose to include several factors from the WIFI model, for example;
Cook states that the result of these actions have been recorded to increase employee engagement. (Cook, 2008)
Since we already briefly discussed all 4 elements of WIFI model now we can go into deeper dive to understand those principal drivers and what is the impact of the WIFI model is as shown in figure.
3. Transformational Change
To begin the transformational change we have to action survey related to all 4 elements as well as questioning the level of engagement. Where we can establish which of them is strongest and weakest, and that’s where a transformational change plan can star which needs a cultural change due to involvement of everyone in the business. The success of the change depends on sponsorship from the top of organization, where the biggest risk is to have it launched without commitment and no monitoring ant that’s where ii can goes wrong.
First steps that can be taken to engage our employee is through the job design by ensuring that job is orientated to employees best interest and ability but more so its composed for them where they can treat it as their own and regards it as such. It does need skill variety, identity, significance, autonomy, meaning and knowledge.
In order to design job optimally we need to focus on 4 elements. The Job content giving actual job meaning, responsibility and witness the end result of their work. Job context responsible for ergonomic part of job design and its working options. Which links to autonomy where employees feel more empowered when they have control over context.
Work relationships which is based on ones interaction around them and needs to be trust based and harmonious. Line manager plays a vital role and bring the job design to life.
Discretionary behavior can be supported in the company by allowing employees to express themselves and be involved. Its where we see employee going extra mile and solving problems. However discretionary behavior and role autonomy are linked to engagement enablers, where employees need to be able to voice themselves. And be able to feel right levels of autonomy, where autonomy can provide optimal employee functioning. (Bridger, 2015)
Though I do mention employee engagement surveys and difficulty is that they are not that often. However there are other ways to get the results faster and act on them.
Typically you can do the one on ones meetings with employees by collecting their feedback, creating safe and comfortable environment for them to speak up and as well be heard and listened. Also the another great opportunity is the stay interviews or otherwise called exit ones, which are quite rare these days, where by using correct approach and having structured interview feedback it can be very rewording to drive fast change in company. The one to one is almost a moment where we can asses sometimes if there will be need for exit interview and most of time for first one not happening its to late to act on exit interviews and we only collect feedback. Sadly in some occasions there is nothing employer can do any more for the leaving employee but not getting feedback or acting on it that leaves more risk for the business. Another fast and simple measure tools is the Pulse. It’s a small survey from 5 to 10 questions, to understand how employees are feeling at work in current climate and if there is anything can be done to make it better, as well as establish current engagement levels. Such surveys have to keep simplicity and can be more frequent; the lack of depth and complexity is what makes them different from employee engagement survey (quarterly ones or annual)
Probably the easiest and most powerful result would be the employee net promoter score, it that speaks volumes about loyalty. Predominantly focusing on the idea If you would recommend workplace as a great place and would you be willing to recommend the products and services.
In todays modern yet complex business environment we cannot escapes forums, which are focusing on value employees ideas and making them part of the process by getting them involved. It’s opportunity to make it 2 way communicative platform.
If we would agree to deliver consistency in one-on-one meetings, with a follow-up pulse surveys, then we could actually build consistency in monitoring all the time and supporting where needed which would ideally help to reduce exit interviews at and increase annual survey results.
To understand what can be the outcomes of transformation change we can look into few examples which are based on saving income through controllable cost as in sicknesses / absence and engagement that relates to physical engagement where employees go extra mile whilst delivering extraordinary sales in M&S:
“Companies with highly engaged staff report employees taking an average of 7 absence days per year, approximately half the 14 days per year reported in low engagement companies (bottom 25%). Those employees in high engagement companies also report significantly less workplace stress, 28% versus 39%” (Aon Hewitt, 2012)
“According to liP (2014) those who described themselves as happy in their role were less likely to take ‘sickies’, than those who described themselves as unhappy, with almost three in 10 (27%) of unhappy workers having embellished the truth about being ill to take a day off on at least one occasion, compared with 20% of contented employees. More than one in twenty (6%) admitted to taking a ‘sickie’ more than five times in one year.” (Engageforsuccess, 2014)
“Marks and Spencer’s research shows that over a four year period stores with improving engagement had, on average, delivered £62 million more sales to the business every year than stores with declining engagement. Sainsbury’s have found clear link between higher levels of engagement and sales performance, with the level of colleague engagement contributing up to 15% of a store’s year on year growth.” (Engageforsuccess, 2014)
So now that we have some rough idea and examples of what the results can be we need to ensure that we can delivery the WIFI survey to establish what needs to change and what transformation plan will look like. As already mentioned that does require senior leadership to deliver it and keep it alive as some areas might be long term goals and would need more on going check in on progress. Which means defining the roles and responsibilities, how to organize the project, how we will achieve the task, how we will manage and monitor the people that are involved and the personal qualities that are needed. It does resonate to a project and should be treated as such with high importance as we already seen from evidence that outcomes can be extremely rewarding. Having carefully planned resources and project team its ready to launch
Involvement is part of the WIFI model and takes quite a big part as it does requite every stakeholder and business unit to be present in it for its success. Though we talked about Senior Leadership being part of the WIFI model transformation plan, the difference with involvement is that it’s a 2 way communication. Employee has to be part of it in order for it to succeed. Though involvement does cover job design in some companies and it means that employee can be more present with other colleagues and gives opportunity for easier communication across business as every knows each other better. Joints project would be a big win to create more increase involvement and not only from people but stakeholders and other departments. By working better across business there can be increased communication and generate more positive environment where everyone wants to contribute to success of the business. (Cook, 2008)
4. Employee Attitude Survey
The next step into employ engagement is Employee Attitude Surveys, which include: Focusing of Employee Development Programs; Enhancing Management/Employee Relations; Training Needs Assessment; Evaluation of Training; Organizational Climate Survey; Customer Satisfaction Survey
This process can also be a motivator of performance since it shows the employee that their opinions and views are considered important. And it creates a great amount of feedback for organization to understand its employees:
Employee engagement survey though would be an annual one and that is critical to keep up engagement levels. It would mean continuity planning to consistently drive employee engagement focus and create fairness and involvement commitment to all employees. The best question set is one that is customized to fit the needs of the organization. Usually, such a quality customized set of questions can be drawn from a mix of benchmarkable templates, prior surveys, and custom questions. When combined with consideration, these resources can accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of an organization.
While the case for the inverse causal story (performance drives engagement) is not well-supported in isolation, several recent academic studies employing longitudinal designs suggest that a third option is the most likely: namely, that engagement and performance are mutually reinforcing, leading to the opportunity to initiate synergistic feedback over time between employee engagement and performance. These studies indicate a link between past engagement levels and current performance that is both larger in magnitude and longer in duration than the reciprocal relationship. Their analysis of multi-wave employee attitude survey data and area-level performance in a retail bank, find that employee engagement predicted subsequent business unit performance over a three-year horizon and that business unit performance predicted engagement only over a single year. (Egageforsuccess, 2015)
6. Employee Value Proposition
When we speak about employee engagement we need to remember that it starts with talent where An Employee Value Proposition comes in. EVP is the unique set of benefits an employee receives in return for the skills, capabilities and experience they bring to a company.
An EVP is about defining the company and how it is unique and what it stands for. It encompasses the central reasons that people are proud and motivated to work there, such as the inspiring vision or distinctive culture. When integrated into all aspects of a business, a strong EVP will help to retain top performers and attract the best external talent.
In order to deliver EVP we need to align our company strategies and objectives and ensure it differentiates. Needs to be inspirational and realistic picture of the company.
In today’s world employees are more motivated by benefits working for organization then just a paycheck. And company can reap some great rewords from succeeding in it.
(Talentsmothie, Factsheet, 2017)
Organisations with effective EVPs are able to source from a much deeper pool of talent in the labour market. Top-performing organisations draw candidates from about 60% of the labour market, including “passive” candidates who would otherwise be content to stay with their current job. Lesser-performing organisations are able to source only from the most active 40% of the workforce.
Organisations with effective EVPs enjoy significantly higher levels of commitment/engagement from their employees. Top performing organisations have 30% to 40% of their workforce displaying high levels of commitment, compared to less than 10% in under-performing organisations.
Organisations with effective EVPs are able to reduce the compensation premium required to attract new candidates. Top-performing organisations are able to spend 10% less on base pay compared to under-performing organisations. (Manpower Group, 2019)
After bringing talented people in, an organization can further serve its bottom line by engaging employees at all levels. Gallup has found that the most highly engaged business units are 21% more productive, experience 48% fewer safety incidents, are 22% more profitable, have 10% better customer ratings and experience 37% less absenteeism. (News Gallup, 2016)
EVP same as employee survey or WIFI model can always meet with resistance. For EVP to be successful it has to be lead by senior management and delivered through employees. One of the EVP factors that can work for organization is job design and people culture where development and investment in employees is key priority. By creating culture of learning and talent growth would significantly increase EVP levels in the company.
“Here are some of the most effective transformative practices to put into play:
2. Switching perspectives: Once leaders are on board with the ‘why’ it’s time to bare all about the current culture.
3. Communications: Are transformative. That includes communications to broad external audiences, those who may one day enter the selection process.
4. Process and culture: By ensuring diverse selection pools (process) as well as training recruiting managers on the value of diverse talent pools (culture).
5. Metrics are key to the transformation process. Measures and goals help you to talk in the language of business leaders. An analytics process that models the current and future desired state of D&I in an organisation is incredibly powerful as I see daily in my client work.”
Today EVP is critical tool in fight for talent especially in the global market. Employees who are value to the company are attracted with its help or how we call them top talent. For employers it shapes company culture abiding strategies and approach to its people. And though we can argue that some companies don’t have it, the reality is that it does exist and it’s only managed. So question stands if we want to take control of it and drive the success.
And though WIFI model is a long term succession plan for organization of our size we need to be laser focused on EVP which in todays world is key for talent retention and attraction and would be easily linked to WIFI due to its shared values. In todays world there is an overflow of information and is much easier access any data, where we can easily take advantage and benchmark ourselves and get better insight, where we need to be in order to be successful. Which means analyzing reflecting and making sure we reinvest into people to use employee as a filter for business success. Maybe it’s a right thing to shat employee engagement is filter for business success.
“Long-term improvements in employee engagement need to be endorsed by leadership and it needs to be included in the company’s HRM strategy. For organizations to succeed in implementing an employee engagement strategy they need to demonstrate strong leadership, communicate and involve people, support and recognize success and to develop a participative implementation process” (Heskett, Sasser Jr, & Schlesinger, 1997)
“In a study introduced earlier in the thesis by Towers Watson: The Global Workforce study. The study measured engagement along with other business performances over 12 months with over 664,000 employees. Companies with highly engaged employees improved operational income by 19.2% over the 12-month study period, and companies with low engagement scores operational income declined by 32.7% over the same period.” (Tower Watson, 2014)
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