It is often tough to see the effect of employee engagement on your business, as it is not an easy aspect to quantify. It is hard to see how it directly relates to things like sales or other performance metrics for example, and this means it can often be overlooked. Despite this, most organisations recognise the need for a good employee engagement strategy. In fact, “90% of leaders think an engagement strategy has an impact on business success, but barely 25% of them have a strategy.” If so many organisations recognise the need for employee engagement, why do so few have a plan in place to make sure it happens, and how do those that don’t have one, go about changing it?
It seems that in many cases, employee engagement is not adopted as a policy because of how difficult it is to quantify with other goals and targets set by any particular organisation. Dr John Sullivan believes that executives will give engagement little more than lip service as long as they are not “directly measured or rewarded on a factor.” He believes as executives are measured on “corporate goals, their own personal goals or objectives and the factors in their bonus formula,” if you want them to care about engagement you need to “show a direct connection between lower engagement scores and something they are measured and rewarded on.” Of course once it becomes clear how employee engagement relates to the big figures, such as turnover, profit and other financial metrics, it should be fairly easy to get the people at the top of an organisation involved in implementing an engagement policy. One clear possible way of showing potential employee engagement is looking at employee turnover compared to industry average. A higher than usual employee turnover can indicate low employee engagement across the organisation Similarly looking at absence rates, again in relation to the industry average, could give a similar picture of where you are at with engagement.
So how do you go about defining and quantifying employee engagement? One way used by many organisations is to run surveys of every employee at least annually. Based on scales (often 0 – 10). This can make it far easier to see how engaged your staff are and to analyse trends year on year. In terms of CEO endorsement, a yearly survey can give indicators of where the problem areas are and what needs to be addressed in the eyes of the employees. Surveys can be hugely beneficial if every staff member takes part as they can show what the general feeling and mood of the organisation is, and how involved the employees are. However there is a danger in using surveys as they can be viewed as impersonal and may not yield candid responses, especially if employees feel the organisation will not act on their concerns/ideas or that they may be identifiable from their answers. Furthermore, an employee that is totally disengaged may disregard the survey altogether and not take it seriously. This comes back to employees feeling their concerns will not be addressed. The other issue is if they are only utilised once a year then employees may feel there is no way for them to speak up the rest of the year round, and therefore it is important to make sure there is always a way for employees to give feedback.
This is why it is so important to have engagement ingrained into employee culture. It is difficult to gauge the metrics of engagement, but by making your employees feel as though they can come forward at any time with ideas or issues organisations will find themselves with a wealth of important data that could allow for continual improvement on a day-to-day basis. Of course in many organisations colleagues do not feel comfortable stepping forward, and if this is the case there are still other ways of building trust into an organisation that could lead to an open, progressive corporation. This may be as simple as a suggestion box, staff forums, meeting the CEO or Head of Department; or it could take a more sophisticated form, such as SpeakInConfidence, which provides confidential communication between you and your employees.
It may be difficult to see the need for an employee engagement strategy, and it may be difficult to use metrics to define a need for it, but if you begin to allow your colleagues to speak up, you may soon find ideas and issues coming to the surface that you never knew were there before. This should not be scary – knowledge of the iceberg is the first step to avoiding it, and seeing an opportunity is the first step to grasping it. With the benefit of more engaged employees you will find it easier than ever to do both.