Employee engagement: leading change

Employee engagement goes hand in hand with boosting productivity. Fiona Anderson, Founding Director of valuingYOU and TM Top 100 Exemplar 2015, explains why.

Every disengaged employee could be costing your business around a third of their annual salary. If your total wage bill equates to £1,000,000, you could be losing £333,000 a year, according to global employee rewards and recognition business, Achievers.

You’ll recognise those who are disengaged, they are the people who:

  • Deliver lower quality outputs
  • Deliver a poor customer experience
  • Have 2.4 times more days of sickness absence
  • Feel no meaningful attachment to their job or company
  • Are resistant to change
  • Are consistently late for work or meetings
  • Drain team enthusiasm (often referred to as ‘mood hoovers’)
  • Create a toxic atmosphere for their co-staff
  • Blame others for their own shortcomings

In 2013, global performance management company, Gallup reported that up to 26% of the workforce were actively disengaged – the highest level within the G7 countries. Worryingly, only 17% were identified as being actively engaged.

Why employee engagement matters

Fiona Anderson, founding director, ValuingYou & TM Top 100 Exemplar 2015.
Fiona Anderson, founding director, valuingYOU & TM Top 100 Exemplar 2015.

Engaged staff are those more emotionally attached, will go above and beyond the call of duty, and perform their job consistently to a high level. They are more likely to be innovative and prepared to constructively challenge the norm to add value. They own a problem and take pride in being the best they can be.

So how much are disengaged employees costing you?

If you have a staff survey, take a look at the worker satisfaction results. What do they tell you about the level of fulfilment in your business? What percentage of staff fall into the ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ categories? What does a third of their combined salary equate to?

That’s how much you are losing every year. These will be the hidden costs in terms of managing customer complaints; quality control; recruitment; time lost while waiting for late arrivals to work or a meeting; the impact that stress has on those who “carry” their poor productivity…

What about for those business which don’t have a staff survey, how do they know what has to be put in place to increase employee engagement and productivity?

Even for those that do have a survey, juggling concerns surrounding the upcoming Referendum; managing the shift towards the fourth industrial revolution; retaining key staff; and attracting ‘millennials’ can all supersede a desire to build even greater employee engagement.

Employee Engagement - ValuingYou Infographic - June 2016

In my experience, what’s missing typically falls under two headings: leadership and communication.

Leadership

Leadership requires people who inspire and motivate their employees. They provide:

  • Clear direction – great leaders have a vision that is memorable, a vision that creates clarity for everyone in the workplace and is understood by all. A clear vision underpins every business decision, including the tough ones. What it isn’t is a lonely poster on the wall bearing the title “Vision” accompanied by a handful of adjectives.
  • Brand – great leaders develop a brand with clearly defined values that drive behaviours, a brand that is threaded through everything the company does from employee culture to customer experience. A brand is not a well-crafted logo in isolation.
  • Expectations – great leaders are clear about what is expected in terms of both tasks and behaviour. Every member of staff is empowered to take calculated risks and know that if they do, they will be supported by their manager. This requires great managers who empower their staff; hold them accountable; recognise positive contribution, and manage poor performance. It is not ignoring unacceptable behaviours and promoting inconsistency.
  • An example – great leaders know that whatever they do or say, others will follow. They understand that staff often have valuable insight and involve workers at all levels to develop solutions. Their behaviour and actions are consistent, whether celebrating success or leading during a crisis. It is not someone who says one thing and then does another.

Communication

Communication can be a catalyst or a cancer. Too little and staff create their own version of reality, a version that is often worse than what’s actually occurring. The energy and time consumed by guessing what might be happening creates a toxic environment, one where differentiating between what’s the truth and what’s not can be difficult.

For communication to be a catalyst, staff need to be provided with regular strategic updates – ideally face-to-face, where they have the opportunity to ask questions, to seek clarification and understand what impact any change may have on them. Staff are asked for their opinions and suggestions – both of which are valued, and are ideally involved in helping to develop potential solutions.

Courageous leaders go so far as to give a voice to ‘saboteurs’ – the vocal sceptics who hold influence within their peer groups. Through involvement, ‘saboteurs’ are likely to become engaged and share their resulting enthusiasm with others, helping to accelerate increased productivity.

Effective communication is not reliant on email; the internet/intranet; social media, and/or sharing bad news on a Friday.