By Ben Eubanks
It seems that you can’t turn around today without having a conversation that touches on employee engagement. Yet despite all the attention, the needle hasn’t moved.
Surveys. Tools. Methodologies. All are promoted as a way to create or drive worker engagement. But to what end? Gallup’s regular research into engagement paints a dismal picture, a “worldwide employee engagement crisis,” in their words.
The bottom line is – companies are failing to engage employees.
Engagement is Not a Program
The first thing many leaders do when they get feedback from employees is think about how to create a new program or initiative to improve engagement scores.
Good luck with that.
The truth is that employees are tired of these “programs.” A great employment relationship will drive engagement more than a pat on the back or a gift card. So long as the company is meeting the basic elements of an employee’s needs financially, other factors come into play for influencing the level of engagement. And in case you have the available budget and are wondering, a large chunk of money isn’t going to work either. In fact, more money has been shown to reduce dissatisfaction, but it doesn’t drive happiness or increase employee satisfaction.
The challenge is to see engagement not as a one-off activity, but as a holistic view of the employee experience. Being able to tie every activity together to produce a cohesive experience that employees are proud of is the key element to ultimately driving engagement numbers.
Engagement is Not an Outcome
Some leaders check engagement scores as if they were the latest sales figures or turnover statistics. In reality, engagement is not the outcome we are shooting for–we are looking for something deeper and more meaningful.
- Customer Satisfaction. Happy customers are the bare minimum necessary to create a sustainable business. The real goal is in creating an experience for employees and customers alike -one that is positive and rewarding on a variety of fronts. In an Aon Hewitt study, teams ranked highly for engagement also saw an additional 25 percentage points in their Net Promoter Scores.
- Innovation. Companies everywhere are trying to create atmospheres for employees that will produce more innovative thinking. But what if the answer isn’t open office space but a higher engagement score? Innovation is a key outcome of engagement. Recent research by Gallup found that 61% of engaged employees feed off the creativity of their colleagues, compared to a mere 9 percent of disengaged employees. In addition, it found that 59% of engaged employees believe their job brings out their most creative ideas, compared to only 3 percent of disengaged employees.
- Revenue. In a discussion of concrete impacts, we would be remiss if we didn’t touch on the one that matters most to many organizations: the bottom line. There are several pieces of research that demonstrate the link between engagement and financial results. According to Towers Perrin research, companies with engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins, and IBM research points out that engaged companies have five times higher shareholder returns over five years.
Each of these and other similar studies helps to offer a glimpse at the true value that engagement has to offer the business.
Instead of another standalone, low-impact HR program, employee engagement can become a business enabler, driving performance and results across the enterprise.
Ben Eubanks is the Principal Analyst at Lighthouse Research & Advisory.