Employee Engagement Pays Off

Engaged Employees are defined as being enthusiastic about their work and applying positive action to further an organization’s reputation and interests. Hassan Helmy shares his experience on how employee engagement really does pay off.

E mployee Engagement is a fundamental concept that describes, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees. Needless to say, organizations regularly look for ways to reach high levels of engagement and management consultants are constantly on the search for new tools to refine the measurement of engagement from simple workshop approaches, to surveys to advanced methods of applications.

The term ‘employee engagement’ was first used in a 1990 Academy of Management Journal and during the mid-1990's Gallup started to refine and extend their Q12 (twelve question copyrighted survey) to include questions related to engagement and spawned the industry of employee engagement.

How is engagement advancing nowadays?

Companies are applying stable working tools, whether via the local intranet or through screens, that both captures and delivers messages from the management to the employees and vice versa. The days of the “Suggestion Box may have worked in the past, but employees starting feeling that it was just a place where their ideas disappeared, or even that their ideas were taken on by management and no credit given back.

Companies need to have communication tools in place that process and handle two-way communication. It is vital that the information gained is then supplied and used as a tool to drive action that leads to success; as if the information is not handled effectively the tool can quickly become a two-edged sword.

What challenges engagement?

Companies are expanding both geographically and functionally. That means multiple locations and different directions for different departments and/ or segments. Less and less dependency on face-to-face meetings has become the norm.

The answer is to find better ways of delivering messages, aligning staff and to make sure the departments have not become silos or companies within companies. If you are working in the HR field, you would find the same problem with performance management, assessments and development. If you are on the commercial or strategic side, you would face the same for product alignment, achieving the results and managing the go-to-market forums to avoid competitive reactions.

There has to be at least an annual staff meeting, better yet quarterly mini meetings where strategy and achievements are shared, and in which staff ideas are gathered and workshops are conducted to make things real.

So what is in stock for the future of Engagement?

Technology has helped in ways not seen in the times of the paper survey. Interactive video messages, whether with an employee or simply referencing current issues now make use of the local intranet and social media tools. Everything has now become faster, more accurate and allows for more in-depth analysis of demographics, departmental differences and many more.

Some companies have moved to the use of applications for smartphones and tablets. These apps are handy and can be heavily used when conducting performance reviews. They rely on the speed and ability of staff and managers to send and receive bite size information and data gathering. Some surveys, such as Survey Monkey, are now conducted on mobile devices.

And the fun part has arrived: Gamification. This is now being used in workshops and training courses. The material is not boring and much more on the interactive side. The messaging is being changed from straight messages into ones that rely on the creative mind, as creativity and connection is a tool that can boost engagement.

When it comes to the future of the workplace, Millennials and Gen Z will be the driving force. They rely on being connected so ensure your Engagement strategy is in line with the business and make sure you are able to capture and reflect on the ideas and involvement of the employees. Remember they will want to know “Why” they are doing what they are doing, not just the ‘How’ or the ‘What’.

Make engagement the norm and develop your own tools but make sure those tools matter, as it is how they are used that really counts. Tools can make things easier but they don’t really change the job at hand. And the job at hand is engaging employees – meeting their human workplace needs in order to thrive and be most effective at work. That's the future of employee engagement.

Four ways to boost employee engagement:

1. Ensure all conditions have been met so that employees and

the organization are ready, willing, and able to engage fully

and authentically with their work.

2. Ensure employee engagement is not merely adding more

programs and responsibilities to overtaxed managers and

other employees.

3. Spend wisely. Ensure the bulk of any budget devoted to

engagement is spent on intervention or improvement of

engagement rather than being used in yet another large-

scale survey.

4. Involve employees fully in your approach to employee

engagement. Engagement is not something you do to

employees it is something you do with employees.

Four important questions to ask your employees:

1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?

2. Where are you in the process of reaching your goals?

3. Do you have a best friend at work?

4. If you were leading this department/organization, what is

the one thing you would change, and why?

Personal experience:In 2004, I was asked by my boss to introduce employee engagement and make sure that the staff was fully aware of the company policies and proposed changes and encourage them to get involved in decision making. It was fairly new to Egypt at the time, so I researched the subject and to my surprise, found out that many companies had made major leaps and strides in that area.

I was in charge of the call centre operation at a telecommunications company, and there was a new direction to operate during the Iftar hours of Ramadan. The initial response was a definite no, until I started asking the staff how they felt if we helped increase the customer satisfaction.They got involved in the decision, and started coming up with various ways of compensating for the 30 minutes extra they would have to work during the Iftar.

The volunteer line was opened up and to my surprise many of the staff opted to work during that dead shift and we ended up with more volunteer requests than we needed. The dead shift became the most sought after timing throughout that month, 100% of the customer calls were answered, people were happy and staff morale was high.

In a nutshell, when people are given the chance to be part of a decision, rather than forced into something, they can make wonders occur.

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