Over the past three years of recession many community sector organisations have had to try and do more with fewer resources and as a result there has been a fundamental shift in the employer/employee relationship. With more cuts on the way many organisations are under increasing pressure to improve performance and maximise the contribution of every employee. An employee engagement strategy is an option worth considering to help improve individual and organisational performance.
Employee engagement must be owned by management and form an integral part of how manager’s act on a daily basis to ensure engagement is a lived experience in the daily interactions between managers and employees.
International research shows that a higher level of employee engagement is directly linked to increased profit, higher customer satisfaction, and productivity, employee retention, less absenteeism, less accidents and better morale at work. The relationship between employee engagement and organisational performance remains undisputed with global research demonstrating engagement has a direct effect on an organisation’s performance.
In Ireland the professional services company Towers Watson carried out in-depth research in this area and the data from employees in a wide cross-section of all sectors indicated that, far from declining, engagement levels in Ireland have increased significantly since 2009. The findings show that Irish employees generally have strong engagement with their jobs:
- 8 in 10 believe in their organisation’s goals;
- 94% understand how they can contribute to the success of their organisation;
- 9 in 10 are willing to exert extra effort and work beyond what is normally required to help their organisation succeed.
Developing and Implementing a collaborative employee engagement strategy is required if the organisational benefits are to be realised. Set out below are 5 steps towards developing such a strategy.
1. Feedback through a workplace survey.
This is a useful tool to gather feedback as to where the organisation is now with regard to engagement, motivation, and morale and job satisfaction. It is important not to fear having to deal with negative feedback. Identifying the right questions will ensure feedback is constructive and developmental for the organisation. It is essential to clearly communicate why the survey is being carried out and what benefits can be expected for both employees and the organisation.
Any employee engagement programme can only be effective if there are open and effective communication systems in place. Suggestion boxes, anonymous feedback forms, focus groups, Question & Answer sessions are effective methods of communication. Managers need to examine what communication systems are in place and decide if improvements are necessary.
3. Visible & Engaged Management.
Managers need to be proactive in encouraging creativity by allowing employees to question current ways of working and identifying solutions to inefficiencies. Employees should be treated as individuals and encouraged to express their opinions.
The research stated earlier shows that engaged employees are more likely to take their learning and development into their own hands rather than waiting to be told what those needs are. They also seek new ways of learning on the job.
A core element of an effective engagement strategy is to reward effective work and achievements by:
- Saying Thanks! Or Well Done!
- Openly communicating and celebrating an employee’s or team’s achievements
- Considering the physical and mental well being of employees.
Against a backdrop of further cuts in budgets over the short and medium terms community sector organisations will need to be more responsive to change. Having high performing and engaged employees will make this task easier.