Happy Business People In MeetingA recent report on the global state of employee engagement estimates that it is in decline.  However those companies that buck the trend have found that they have experienced higher returns. The evidence is compelling.

A report in 2012, Engage for success showed that companies who actively worked on engagement of staff in the UK increased their growth at a rate of around 25% more than those which did not engage.
Kenexa research established the link between engagement and total net income using data from 64 organisations. Organisations with highly engaged employees achieved twice the annual net income (profit) of organisations whose employees lagged behind on engagement, even after controlling for organisation size.
Towers Watson’s 2012 Global Workforce Study  reported that companies with high and sustainable engagement levels had an average one-year operating margin that was close to three times higher than companies with low engagement levels.

So what is employee engagement?

The CIPD  in the UK have defined employee engagement as ‘being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connection to other’.
For me the most important phrase here is being positively present. Being present means actively participating with enthusiasm and not just complying.

Why employee engagement important?

The stastistics and research quoted above speak for themselves, a non engaged workforce will not deliver. They may deliver in the short term however if you are looking for high quality, innovative solutions, a positive approach to change and good customer relationships then evidence suggests that employee engagement is important. It will really get you the buy in of the people who work for you.

How do you engage employees?

Summarising the receommendations of various organisations:

  • Align vision and strategy and have leaders who inspire employees to buy in to this.
  • Motivate, empower and support employees.
  • Have leaders who use a coaching style to work with empowering their team.
  • Have a psychological contract where there is trust, respect and fairness in order for people to share and be engaged

A 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review by Charalambos A. Vlachoutsicos  highlighted some important aspects of communication style that can influence how engaged your employees are. These are important at any level of leadership in organisations and include:

  • To be modest- not to dominate conversations or try and prove that you know it all
  • To listen and show that you are listening
  • To invite disagreement- you don’t have all the answers

Finally I quote from a car worker who reported that before the introduction of team working, ‘it was like you had to leave your brains behind when you entered the factory’.

Imagine how much better companies could work when brains (and hearts) are not only brought into but fully engaged in their work.