Business media like Forbes and Fast Company, corporate “gurus” and bloggers, as well as HR professionals, executives and managers have been talking about employee “engagement” for years.
Now, however, it seems that everyone’s talking about it more than ever before.
Because study after study demonstrates a strong correlation between high levels of employee engagement and better corporate performance. “Engagement” is emerging as one of the key competitive differentiators in today’s business landscape.
A recent Globoforce and Society for Human Resource Management survey determined that, “As human capital becomes the foremost challenge for companies worldwide, employee engagement is mission critical for an increasing number of organizations.”
All of which is to say: if you’re not thinking about how to engage your employees, you should be — and you’ve probably got a bit of catching up to do.
But first: what is engagement? For such a critical issue, it’s admittedly hard to quantify. Engaged employees are typically described as passionate, committed, and enthusiastic — not just about their job, but the company they work for and its overall mission and goals. An engaged employee is aware of both immediate, tactical goals, as well as long-term, strategic ones, and — this part is crucial — proactively works to advance both.
As author Kevin Kruse writes in Forbes, engagement is about the emotional commitment an employee has to a company and its goals. The engaged employee works for more than a paycheck (which is why it takes more than just a salary increase to poach them); they feel part of the larger whole of an organization, and therefore see their work playing an important role in moving a company forward.
Engaged workers go the proverbial “extra mile”, or, in Kruse’s words, they use “discretionary effort,” i.e., they work harder when they don’t really have to.
The signs of an unengaged workforce are myriad: missed deadlines, poor customer service, careless (and costly) mistakes, and employees who clock out as soon as possible. Companies with employees who aren’t engaged experience higher shrinkage rates, higher employee turnover, and ultimately, lower profits.
Like numbers? Gallup provides an impressive group of statistics on the effect of engagement on a variety of workplace issues:
In companies with low worker engagement, employees take 37 percent more sick days.
Inventory shrinkage at companies with low engagement rates is 28 percent greater than at those with high engagement.
Companies with high engagement levels experience 48 percent fewer safety incidents.
Product defects are up to 41 percent less common in companies with highly engaged employees.
Companies with high engagement levels have 25-65 percent better employee retention rates than companies with low engagement.
Ultimately, this is what you risk if your employees’ engagement level is low:
- Customer Satisfaction levels that are up to 10 percent lower
- Employees who are 21 percent less productive
- A business with 22 percent lower profits
The health — and maybe even the future — of your business: that’s why you should care about engagement.
Engaged employees come in early and stay late. They go out of their way to make customers happy. They identify inefficiencies in work processes and develop solutions on their own. Engaged employees make your job easier.
You can try to encourage all of these behaviors through company policies, micromanagement, and a culture of punishment and fear, but it’s more effective (not to mention healthier) to cultivate a workplace of genuinely engaged employees who feel appreciated and like what they do.