Four Ways to Build & Maintain Employee Engagement

The risks and costs of allowing engaged employees to become disengaged, and how to avoid it happening.

Everybody wants engaged employees who are committed, energized and enabled in doing their work.  We look at where we think different people are and pigeon-hole them as appropriate.  We forget, however, that they can move from one state of engagement to another,

Research by Wayne Hochwarter, Professor of Business Administration in the Florida State University College of Business, has shown that employee engagement, when managed well, has significant benefits including that they work harder, are more creative, demonstrate greater commitment to their work and the business, and are also an important predictor of company productivity.

Mis-Management of Engaged Employees

Engaged employees can quickly become disengaged, especially if they feel taken advantage of.  When this happens, these previously engaged employees can cause significant damage and harm to the business which is greater than that caused by those who were never engaged to begin with.

Businesses are increasingly at risk of this occurring as they try to cope with tougher economic conditions and a more difficult trading environment.  Employees are being asked to do more, with less, for the same pay and conditions (or a marginal improvement).  This is in a situation where people have often been laid off, and where less is being asked of the less-engaged colleagues.

The research found, with employees who felt engaged:

  • 50% higher rate of job satisfaction.
  • 45% higher rate of job performance.
  • 40% higher rate of life satisfaction.
  • 30% more committed to their employer.

But, if engaged employees feel they are being taken advantage of – if they don’t receive the support and resources they need to do their jobs – they can begin to exhibit a number of undesirable attitudes and behaviours.  This includes:

  • 50% decline in helpfulness
  • 35% increase in anger at their supervisors
  • A 33% increase in the belief that what is expected of them is beyond their capabilities.
  • 30% higher levels of stress
  • 25% lower overall productivity.

Andrew Cooke’s Four Ways to Build & Maintain Employee Engagement

  1. The employee’s perspective is the only one that matters – no matter what you think or feel about what you have done to engage your employees (or otherwise), it is how the employee perceives the situation that will determine their reality.
  2. Employee engagement is a personal matter and choice – the level of engagement that an employee experiences and the subsequent behaviours they exhibit is a choice made by the employee.
  3. Engagement is slow to build and quick to lose – the essence of employee engagement is the employee’s belief and trust in the business’ leaders that they have his or her best interests at heart.  If there is no trust, there can be no engagement.  Trust is built and maintained by Making, Keeping and Repeating promises.
  4. Both elements of engagement need to be continuously reviewed and addressed:
    1. The employee’s commitment, energy and capabilities to do the work – they need to be able to do the work they are tasked with; and
    1. The employee has access to the right tools, resources, processes and techniques so that they can properly apply their skills and energy in doing their work.  For example, asking a bricklayer to build a straight wall without a plumbline is difficult and frustrating for the bricklayer, and the end result is likely not to be straight.

Summary

Engaged employees need to be actively managed just as much disengaged employees.  Employees are in a continuous state of flux between the different stages of engagement, so provide them with the tools and means appropriate to their needs that will help them to motivate themselves.  You can only influence them, motivation comes from within.

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