Empirical research carried out by human resource specialists Bassi and McMurrer across a wide range of organisations indicates that there is a core set of HR drivers impacting bottom-line performance in organisations. Top of the list is employee engagement. And while there is no silver bullet to re-shape the engagement agenda, the following 10 action points will be of significant value to improve and nurture employee engagement.
1. Engagement starts at the very top, with a clear vision to inspire and motivate all staff.
A famous anecdote from the 1960s is of a visit by President Kennedy to the NASA Space Centre at Cape Canaveral. The President chatted briefly to a janitor, who proudly asserted that he was helping to put a man on the moon. Fictional it may be, but the story illustrates the galvanising force stemming from a succinct, ambitious yet actionable goal. Like the space mission, personnel at all levels want something with which to link their contribution, and company leadership should convey this purpose as a starting point in defining this beacon.
2. Get the right people into management positions.
Leadership sets the tone, but it is authenticated and delivered upon by management at the localised and granular organisational levels. More importantly, there is a correlation between employees’ trust in their direct line manager and their degree of engagement within the company as a whole.
3. Empower and develop all employees.
Engagement requires companies to pay attention to their people — at all levels. This means more than simply looking after their wellbeing at work, or providing them with a career-path. The concept of developing people is a holistic one. Consider the anecdote of the CFO who challenges his CEO by asking: ‘What happens if we invest in developing our people, but they leave?’ To which the CEO, one with a direction for the company and a willingness to transform and reinvent, replies: ‘What happens if we don’t, and they stay?’
4. Instil and nurture a culture of commitment continuously.
Accountability measures should be built into the company’s business vocabulary, so that everyday actions match to identified goals. This seeds a sense of urgency and passion, setting the tone for a dynamic workplace. Capable and motivated managers should be tasked to achieve ambitious, stretched performance targets rooted in the company purpose — and then granted the autonomy to achieve these objectives.
5. Adapt – or revolutionise – the recruitment approach and employment parameters.
The difficulties around finding and retaining skilled talent will not ease for at least the next decade. Indeed, the 21st Century talent landscape is being ruptured by overarching global megatrends, the most fundamental of which is demographic pattern change arising from urbanisation, increasing workforce mobility, and the reshaping age structure of the world’s overall population and employment pool. This has significant implications for labour force and work-setting dynamics.
Flexibility, as an enabler of agility, should therefore be an option. Traditional workplace boundaries are becoming more sinuous, and remote-work opportunities – provided they do not compromise interaction as the root of collaboration – may form part of an innovative and rewarding talent paradigm.
6. Invest in, and manage, the company’s employment brand.
A compelling employee value proposition should never be assumed. Engagement requires the consistent promotion and communication of the company’s activities and successes, serving to reinforce its vision and mission. Southwest Airlines, for example, is one of America’s most admired companies and a benchmark for customer service. Each week, it shares with its staff (all 46 000 of them) stories about how employees have assisted passengers in extraordinary ways. Some of these narratives are also used in expanded marketing campaigns to nurture the consumer-facing brand. In this way, the company underscores its reputation as an innovative and vibrant place to work.
7. Make communication an ongoing priority.
A significant cause of negativity in the workplace is the impression of a lack of communication, either in general terms or, in particular, around change initiatives. Meaningful communication not only helps to instil organisational culture, but also generates a sense of teamwork and corporate community, which is important in linking day-to-day routine to broader goals.
8. Manage the uncertainty caused by the speed of technological change.
There is a real risk that technology can overwhelm employees, especially if it contributes to a sense of task overload. As digitisation and convergence permeates the work environment, an always-on connectedness can – ironically – seed disconnection from work; or, at the very least, cause distraction. When aggregated with other forces such as global economic rebalancing and political uncertainty in many areas of the world, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that employees today seem increasingly disaffected or only sporadically committed – and that, globally, only 13 percent of employees may be fully engaged. Awareness – and mitigation – of these factors will restore or properly harness technology’s role, so that it genuinely facilitates employee engagement through increased capability for innovation, networking and collaboration.
9. Measure, monitor and take action.
It’s crucial to benchmark key engagement measures, but take care to track the fundamentals: focus on a manageable band of engagement metrics which are the key drivers around business outcomes — for instance, staff turnover in mission-critical departments such as R&D, as opposed to the overall company. The most important aspect may be to take appropriate actions, urgently and transparently, so that employee expectations of improved engagement are actually fulfilled, and there is a clear indication that management indeed prioritises engagement issues.
10. Upskill and enable the human resource division.
Talent management is pivotal to engagement. And, as it affects the practicalities that unravel from a concerted transformational drive around engagement – pressing issues such as generational and gender balance, cutting-edge usage of recruitment methodologies and tools, and active management of the company’s employment brand – HR is best positioned to ensure synergies and a consistent, strategic alignment throughout the company.
Increasingly, organisations are realising the significance of unlocking further potential within their talent pools, and are grasping the reality that how their workforce is shaped and galvanised will determine its future. A committed, participative workforce is therefore a key organisational asset which makes financial sense, reaps competitive advantage and gears the bottom line.
|The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.|