By Doug Bolger

Good morning leaders!

Today I wanted to share with you all some insight on employee engagement and what impact it has on your bottom line. If you don’t know already, employee engagement is an employee’s willingness to go above and beyond their responsibility. It is how an employee feels about their work environment and it’s how connected/aligned the employee is to the mission, vision, and goals of the organization. Overall, employee engagement is a way of determining of how much an employee cares about the organization and how much their willing to do.

The bad news, according to the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study of 32,000 employees from 30 different countries, how much an employee is “willing” to do doesn’t equate to how much their “able” to do. It’s fairly well known that many organizations invest in employee engagement in today’s workforce, but it’s those that have invested in a sustainable method of employee engagement that have found the greatest success.

The difference between sustainable employee engagement and the regular definition is in the work environment. A sustainable work environment energizes and engages employees by promoting and enhancing their physical, emotional, and social well-being. A sustainable engagement strategy and environment energizes employees creatively and provides them with a greater sense of purpose.

“Many employers are pursuing a variety of wellness efforts, typically focused on giving incentives or penalties to people who embrace healthy behaviors like exercise, good diet or effective management of a chronic illness. These are important, but to sustain energy, employers have to go beyond these core programs and embrace the notion of workplace energy on a far broader plane.” –Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study

When engagement is tied to personal goals, the results are far greater. Results from a diverse study of 50 global companies by Towers Watson found that organizations with low engagement scores had an average operating margin of 10%. Those that implemented traditional employee engagement strategies had an operating margin of 14%, while organizations that had sustainable engagement strategies had a staggering one-year operating margin of 27%.

On top of that, organizations with low engagement scores are also prone to a high level of turnover. 40% of those with low engagement scores expressed they would likely leave their employer over the next two years. While 24% of those who are somewhat engaged expressed the same, and only 18% of sustainably engaged employees said the same.

So, that begs the question how does one create a sustainable environment that engages employees?
How does one provide energy to their employees, and in what ways?

Energy is capacity, and with energy we are capable to utilize our skills and behaviours to solve problems and achieve greatness. In today’s workforce, employees are expected to do more with less which leads to many employees feeling overloaded or burnt out. It’s up to organizational leaders and executives to combat this by providing ways to energize employees so they can meet higher demands with fewer resources.

It’s not enough to understand what motivates employees to do more. Employers must invest in helping their employees become energized, inspired, creative, and free from stress or anxiety. Employers need to invest in helping their employee’s live sustainable lives so they can transcend that attitude and behaviour into the workplace.

Towers Watson found that in order for organizations to successfully engage employees, they must utilize policies and practices that allow employees to manage their workload better and for employees to have a greater work/life balance. Employees need greater autonomy and freedom so they can have the confidence to take on projects and tasks on their own without feeling overwhelmed.

Policies that allow for greater flexibility and remote working allow employees to better balance their work and home life because the onus is on them. At the same time, polices must be implemented to set organizational boundaries in relation to meeting length, email response time, and what’s expected of an employee when they work remotely. Other ways of fostering sustainable engagement include learning and development programs, health and wellness programs, working from personal devices, and more.

So, now that we have a better understanding of sustainable employee engagement and what is required of employers, what does this mean for leaders?
For leaders, they must begin to think of themselves as energizers. Leaders and managers shape the day to day experiences we have in the workplace, so it’s up to them to energize employees so they can do more.

74% of those that are sustainably engaged expressed that senior-leaders took a genuine interest into their well-being and performance. While 44% of those traditionally engaged expressed the same, while 18% of disengaged employees expressed their manager does not care about them. To employees, no single influence has a greater effect on morale and performance than feeling valued and appreciated by superiors.

For employers, they have to discover in what way they can recognize and engage their employees without the additional fear and pressure of having to meet a business objective. Employers need to throw their employees into the wild with their peers and let them take on something that may not necessarily be business related, but develops the skills and behaviours required to better communicate and collaborate. Employees need to recognize their own skills and how they can work together to achieve a common goal, but without becoming overwhelmed or disengaged so they can return to the workplace and receive that positive recognition from managers they desire.



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