Engaged employees can be described as being fully immersed in and enthusiastic about their work. Engaged employees usually have an emotional attachment to their work and will go above and beyond what is expected of them on the job. This enthusiasm and emotional attachment fuel employee actions in ways that support the organization’s interest and move it forward.
Employee engagement differs from employee satisfaction, which is related to whether or not employees are happy at work and in their jobs. It is not surprising to discover, however, that employee satisfaction is an important prerequisite to employee engagement, according to a recent study conducted by the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement in the Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University.
A national poll conducted in 2005 revealed that between 50 and 60% of the workforce in the United States is not engaged; these disengaged employees cost their United States employers upwards of $300 billion each year, according to that same poll. With employee disengagement so prevalent, how do companies cultivate employee engagement?
Many things in an organization impact employee engagement, including organizational culture, human resource systems, market characteristics, and financial outcomes. In today’s economy and business climate, organizations need employees who are energetic, motivated, curious, and open to new ways of doing things to achieve ultimate customer satisfaction.
Selecting the right employee for the right job at the right time influences how motivated and ultimately engaged that employee will be. Research by Theresa Welbourne at the University of Chicago identified four employee motivators, including the need for income to survive, the need for good pay and personal satisfaction, the need to ‘make a difference’ while not motivated by money, and the need for work to be fun.
Research conducted by a large European human resource and development firm, found that the main drivers of employee engagement included having opportunities to share your views with those above your pay grade, feeling informed about what goes on in the organization, and believing your manager is committed to the organization.
Both of these studies are supported by Herzberg’s theory of motivation in the workplace. Herzberg observed that pay and working conditions only minimized an employee’s dissatisfaction with work; neither pay nor working conditions promoted satisfaction or subsequent engagement. Herzberg further observed that employees were motivated by factors like responsibility, achievement, recognition, type of work, and potential for advancement. Motivated employees had the potential to become fully engaged in their work.
Managers desiring engaged employees need to take the time to discuss and clarify employee roles and responsibilities relative to the work to be completed. Devoting that extra time and attention at the beginning of a project to ensure understanding saves time and resources later on.
Recognition is also important in creating an engaged workforce. And, that recognition need not be costly. A verbal ‘thank you’ and a smile go a long way to personalize and acknowledge a job well done.
To create a culture of engagement, the human resources team must foster an environment that supports managers in understanding what motivates each of their employees and the flexibility with resources to help managers meet individual employee needs.
Employees who have proven they are productive, efficient, and savvy members of the team deserve to advance. In this tough economy advancement may mean a small salary increase or, more likely, a change in title, perks or benefits.
Studies show that goals of engaged employees align with the goals of their organizations; going to work is usually more than ‘just a job’ for engaged employees; their job is closely tied to their individual identity.
Individuals who feel fully committed to the organization for which they work take great pride in doing their job. They do more than is expected of them and go that extra mile. In so doing, engaged employees influence the buying behaviors of customers. The excitement of an engaged employee is contagious and cannot help but rub off on the customer.
A key finding by the Northwestern University Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement is that organizations with engaged employees have customers who use the company’s products and services more often and with higher satisfaction than customers of companies with disengaged employees.
Satisfied customers cost less to serve, are repeat customers, and are more profitable customers for the organization.
Measuring the engagement of your employees and the satisfaction of your customers reveals direct correlations between employee engagement and your business outcomes. If you would like to learn more about how NBRI can help your organization measure employee engagement and customer satisfaction, contact us now at 1-800-756-6168.
Terrie Nolinske, Ph.D.
National Business Research Institute