By Claudine Kapel
A lot of companies talk about the importance of having engaged employees. But that doesn’t mean they’re all taking meaningful action to connect employees with the business.
In fact, many organizations seem to have plenty of room to raise the bar on how they measure and foster employee engagement.
A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found only 31 per cent of respondents from high-performing organizations and 14 per cent from low-performing organizations felt their company does an effective job of taking meaningful action following engagement surveys. The study featured responses from 200 organizations.
Although even the high-performing sample had opportunities for improvement, the study offers some helpful tips for making the most of employee engagement efforts.
“In high-performing organizations, engagement is much more than a periodic survey followed by activity planning,” reports i4cp “Engagement is about aligning culture, strategy and performance, and re-thinking the ways in which these connect.”
A critical element of this alignment is “a culture that makes engagement the responsibility of frontline managers and top leadership, rather than an activity wholly owned by human resources,” adds i4cp.
Its research highlights four key practices that are more prevalent in high-performing organizations to increase employee engagement levels.
1) Maintain a culture in which employees understand organizational goals and are empowered to achieve them. Respondents from high-engagement organizations (47 per cent) were more than twice as likely to feel their organization’s leaders help employees see how they contribute to the organization’s success, compared to those from low-engagement organizations (21 per cent).
“Sustainable cultures of engagement are built on solid foundations of trust and engaged employees are those who have confidence in their senior leaders,” says i4cp. “Leaders earn trust by being visible, communicating clearly and often about company values, and walking the talk. Cultures in which employees are motivated and engaged are likely those in which leaders communicate effectively with employees about performance goals and expectations.”
2) Measure the impact of engagement on the business. Among organizations that measure the impact of engagement on the business, the most commonly used metrics include customer satisfaction, profitability and revenue growth. When it comes to measurement, i4cp suggests companies can start small, with readily available metrics, such as by looking at engagement scores by performance ratings or talent designations.
3) Include engagement in manager performance appraisals and development plans. High-engagement organizations (40 per cent) were twice as likely to include engagement measures as part of each line manager’s performance review as low-engagement organizations (19 per cent).
“Tying engagement to the performance measures of managers is not a common practice today (only 26 per cent of companies reported doing it) but it should become one for organizations serious about increasing engagement among the workforce,” notes i4cp.
4) Ensure prompt, focused follow through on engagement surveys by managers. “It may seem simplistic, but the fact is that many organizations falter merely by failing to follow through in meaningful visible ways, or by depending on HR alone to drive execution,” notes i4cp.
Many organizations already make major investments in employee engagement surveys. But as the i4cp research suggests, organizations are not fully optimizing the value of such initiatives.
Organizations that want to achieve and sustain high levels of performance need to focus more on making employee engagement an integral part of their culture. Surveys and action planning should be used as part of the process – but they should be seen as tools to support managers and leaders, rather than an end in themselves.
Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.