Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement And Why It Matters

the following is a Guest Post by Kyle Lagunas

Tucker Robeson, CEO of CDL Helpers, says, “You need to wake up to the fact that if you’re not engaging your employees, you’re hurting them--and your company.”

Although Gallup estimated in 2004 that disengaged workers were costing U.S. businesses a staggering $300 billion a year in productivity losses, engagement is one issue that often goes unaddressed. The reason, I suspect, is that there’s a lack of consensus on what the term “engagement” really means.

For many business leaders, “engagement” is just a buzzword. And before you can tackle engagement, you have to understand what it’s all about--what it is, what it isn’t, and why it matters.

What It Is

Employee engagement is a critical indicator of how successful a business is--and the sustainability of that success. At its heart, employee engagement is about motivation. You can’t “buy” engagement. In fact, when you require a certain standard of service, studies show that motivation can’t be limited to monetary compensation.

To bolster engagement, foster a sense of meaning to an employee’s work, and allow the employee to craft the job to his/her capabilities, strengths, and likes, as much as possible.

What It Isn’t

Engagement isn’t strictly a company culture issue--it’s also an operational issue. It requires an adjustment in how leaders communicate with employees. Engagement should be addressed as a strategic initiative at the upper levels of management, and a tactical issue at the lower ones--and the CEO has to lead off. How you announce important business objectives, how you measure success, how you show appreciation--everything needs to strengthen your employees’ connection with the organization and their work.

Furthermore, employee engagement isn’t an HR initiative. Although HR is often tasked with spearheading projects to boost engagement, Every person in a management role is responsible for driving engagement, especially the CEO.

Why Employee Engagement Matters

Employee engagement has direct, demonstrable impacts on productivity and performance that translate to financial results. When employees are not engaged, they generally aren't paying attention to their work, and tend to be apathetic about their jobs.

Conversely, companies with engaged employees are reaping significant financial rewards. The Global Workforce Study found that companies with engaged employees “had operating margins almost three times those of organizations with a largely disengaged workforce.” That point alone makes engagement a strategic issue worthy of executives’ attention.

Admittedly, engagement isn’t easy--and cannot be sustained over time without careful attention to very specific elements in the work environment. But with so much on the line, can companies really afford to ignore it?

About the Author: As the HR Analyst at SoftwareAdvice.com, Kyle Lagunas reports on important trends, best practices, and technology in human resources and talent management.

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