Question: How Important is Employee Engagement?

Many companies struggle with employee engagement, but yet those that have a strong engagement structure or philosophy are seeing success.

What advice can be given to companies that have HR departments encouraging leaders to embrace employee engagement as a key for success?

How do they get leadership to understand and buy in?

3 Expert Insights

The Gallup organization conducts regular polls to see the level of employee engagement in American companies. The numbers are usually in the low 30s. When employees aren't engaged in their work it's often due to a few factors:

1. Their manager is not invested in their engagement by understanding what drives them as an individual. A one size fits all management approach leaves certain employees feeling left out. They may not want raises or bonuses over challenge and mentoring. They may want the opportunity to work on key projects and be cross-trained. When managers aren't invested in learning about each employee's unique needs for satisfaction from their work, then it's likely they will be disengaged.

2. The employee is not doing work in an area that is where their passion lies. It's not always possible for people to do work that energizes them and feeds their soul, but whenever possible companies should seek to put people in positions that cater to their strengths. When this is done there's greater energy and excitement for the work and loyalty towards the company.

3. Training and professional development are not a part of the equation. Many companies don't help their employees to grow in their skills and capabilities on the job. They under-invest in employees, which causes a person to feel they are not growing in their job or with their employer. Thus, disengagement can occur.

Disengaged employees may not produce their best work, may leave jobs more quickly, and often won't be the source of referrals to open positions. If leaders want to see the opposite occur within their companies they would be wise to look at how to better engage their employees.  

Employee engagement is critical to organizational success.

For all that's written and consulted on the topic, it really comes down to two things: one, do your people want to come to work?; two, do they feel they are making a contribution when they are at work?

Leaders encourage engagement by doing the following:
Instilling purpose -- what we do and why we do it?
Communicating purpose through vision, mission and goals
Holding self/team accountable for results
Recognizing contributions of employees -- success is a group effort

As an exec coach/leadership educator-author it's a topic about which I have consulted on, spoken about and written in multiple books, including my newest, MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.

Great insight from John and Michael. I'm a huge believer in Employee Engagement. Higher employee engagement has been shown to impact organizational results. But, most senior leaders are not looking for statistics or data. They want to know that the program or initiative makes the company more successful. Whether its investing in advanced technology or "human capital", the gauge on whether leaders pay attention is - does this help us reach our goals. Does it impact business results. Therefore, the most critical thing that can be done with employee engagement (or any other "people program") is to connect it to a business goal or result. That way, it is not a program or an added step or "something else to do". Instead, it shifts to a tool to drive business results. If a program can be connected to impacting a goal that senior leaders care about, it will get buy-in, funding and attention.

Let me give you an example. I worked with a regional bank that wanted to connect employee engagement to business results.  We worked with them to link employee engagement to 3 goals - lowering teller attrition, increasing new accounts, decreasing savings account attrition. Why did we pick these to link engagement to?
1. They were important to the C-Suite
2. They were heavily impacted by people

We administered the survey and looked at the results through the lens of those 3 goals. Then came up with recommendations directly to impact those three goals. At the end of the fiscal year: teller attrition was cut in half; new accounts were up by 20%; saving account attrition was cut by 40%. These were goals that impacted the bottom line of the company, helped to grow marketshare and increase customer engagement. They could also be directly linked to the work done on employee engagement. That is what senior leaders want to see.

link your programs & initiatives to supported key business goals. Then you will get buy in, earn a seat at the decision making table & help the organization grow.