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  • Michael Heller

Employee Enragement to Employee Engagement

Updated: Oct 14

“...Sure, our salary increases are only 1.5% this year. But, in this economy, our associates should be thankful to have a job...”

This was a statement made by my client’s peer at a large IT consulting firm (name withheld to protect the guilty innocent). You have heard similar statements at your organization, I’m sure. Replace ‘salary increases’ with a different benefit and you can bet that some form of this statement was uttered by 99% of organizations worldwide. And many employees ARE thankful to have a job in the current economic climate. According to a recent article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), fewer employees are expecting raises and more are concerned about potential layoffs, despite optimistic reports and confidence in the beginning of 2020. Likely, employees are putting their heads down, making sure they are simultaneously performing while not rocking the boat. At the same time, employees are also managing the impacts of a global pandemic and a national reckoning with systemic racism and watching how their employers respond both publicly and privately. When (not if) the economy shifts its trajectory, is your organization poised to successfully retain its employees? Will they remain loyal? Are they engaged or enraged?

First, let me give a definition of employee engagement. Simply put, employee engagement is the concept of employees showing up to work enthusiastic and happy about their work, inclusive of their feelings about their co-workers, management, day-to-day activities, environment, and personal contribution to name a few. In other words, it is the employee’s willingness to exert discretionary effort to the organization they work for. Having been through numerous studies in a multitude of industries, it is obvious that employee engagement is connected to employee morale and retention. However, by ensuring morale and retention are high, you are also positively impacting the financial performance of the organization. Towers Watson surmises that organizations with engaged employees outperformed organizations with low engagement by 200%. Engaged employees create performance and financial results. Recently, however, management and executives have confused engagement with ‘having a job’. Just because your employees are working (and working hard) does not mean they are engaged. What’s the best way to get a read on the engagement level of your employees?

In a word: Communication. Effective communication has been touted as one of the best ways to stay connected with your associates. Further, NOT communicating effectively has very measurable consequences. To get a sense of where your associates stand could be as simple as having one-on-one meetings with your staff or as complex as launching a full blown, corporate-wide employee engagement survey. Regardless of the tool, this could be challenging if your managers are relatively new at communicating and acting on this type of information. Communicating policies, financial results or hard data is exceedingly less complicated than talking to your staff about their feelings on the company. Talking about feelings is hard, which is why most avoid it in the workplace. Hard, but important. Get to know where your associates stand on what they like and you can ensure they receive this ‘stuff’ when and if you can provide it. More importantly, get to know what they dislike about the company and you can put a plan in place to increase their engagement. Let’s face it – assume your organization could stand to increase its engagement because EVERY organization needs an adrenaline shot in terms of engagement.

Now, let’s assume that YOU have bought into the fact that better communication can help your firm and engagement will increase as a result of it. What now? Well, don’t expect to achieve this on your own: find engagement champions across the organization that can help evangelize the message. These champions will not only believe in the engagement vision, but help you to influence others. In addition, these champions will have a channel reach that is deeper and more efficient than yours alone.

What should you do at this stage? Begin to inventory the things you have and the things you will need including:

  • Who would make good engagement champions?

  • What is the current perception of employee engagement?

  • What are we doing to motivate and engage employees?

  • What MUST we do to increase engagement?

  • What SHOULD we do to increase engagement?


About the author Michael Heller is the founder and managing principal of Pillar One Consulting, a firm dedicated to providing its clients sustainable, world class human capital and financial management solutions by intimately understanding their needs, developing unique, customized solutions based on next practices and implementing plans that will sharpen their short-term and long-term competitive edge.