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Keeping your staff loyal, productive and on board starts with a full understanding of the five drivers of employee engagement, says Mark Barling, general manager, marketing and major accounts Grass Roots Asia Pacific.
Employee engagement is vital to successful organisations for providing an emotional connection between employees and their organisation.
This connection leads to improved performance, productivity, staff retention, customer service and loyalty. However, the debate on the value of employee engagement is over.
The challenge now is to understand the factors that drive employee engagement, most critically, how each of these needs to be addressed to achieve the best outcomes.
The five identified drivers of employee engagement are leadership and management, culture and environment, purpose and development, reward and recognition and communication. These drivers are inter-dependent and self-reinforcing, which means organisations cannot just focus on one area, while ignoring another.
Adopting an integrated approach means organisations wishing to engage their employees need to work on multiple drivers at the same time.
Leadership and management
Leaders must understand and effectively communicate the vision and goals of the business, therefore, managers should provide employees with regular performance feedback and coaching. They also need to be interested in employees’ personal development, wellbeing and opinions, treating them as individuals. Creating an environment of empowerment and autonomy works better than “command and control” leadership tactics.
Culture and environment
Employees respond well to a culture of trust, collaboration and respect and mutual support, and an organisation should be clear on the values and behaviours employees should aspire to exhibit.
This driver links with the first because management helps to create the right culture. A good example of leadership spearheading the right environment was seen by a luxury fashion retailer that wanted to reduce staff turnover, improve retention rates and enhance interdepartmental relations and employee motivation. After management identified certain values to contribute to this culture, a set of branded cards was created to inspire staff to adopt them. Each had an activity or discussion topic that raised their awareness on the values, and illustrated how behaviour linked with the value would make working for the organisation more meaningful. These cards were used by department leaders to energise and encourage staff during their pre-shift meetings.
Purpose and development
Employees must understand how they contribute to the vision and goals of the organisation, and they also want to have the opportunity to express their opinions and ideas, knowing they will be heard. Like before, this driver also has strong linkages with the leadership and culture drivers. For example, management of a leading international hotel chain wanted customers to have a consistent brand experience, and to do this it needed the hotel’s 62,000 employees to understand how they could make a difference.
The company embarked on a comprehensive repositioning and culture change programme through employee training, where they were encouraged to be in charge of their own learning experience, rather than being “trained”. This resulted in staff being more committed in their jobs and understanding the role they played.
Reward and recognition
Employees should receive a range of benefits, in line with industry standards, on top of their base salary. These rewards need to be fair, transparent and motivational to encourage employees to aim for high achievement. Employees should also be recognised as well as have the opportunity to recognise colleagues for high performance.
This is the underlying driver, which supports the previous four drivers. Employees need to receive relevant, timely and personalised communication from the organisation on their vision and goals. Any changes, such as new people, systems or processes, should be communicated clearly and two-way communication should be encouraged so employees can provide feedback and influence change.
Understanding the drivers of employee engagement is the first step in addressing overall engagement levels throughout an organisation. Treating the drivers as inter-dependent and self-reinforcing is critical to ensuring HR is aware of linking all activities under a common framework.
Because of this, building a broader employee engagement framework allows organisations to take a holistic approach in getting their employees to give their best every day.
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