Early identification of disengagement among employees is a critical skill for managers. Engagement drives both rational and emotional commitment to an organisation, which are precursors to both discretionary effort and retention. Studies have shown that highly engaged employees perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave an organisation.
There are seven key areas of employee engagement, which should be assessed from time to time through general conversation or by more formal assessments using surveys.
When employees join an organisation, they usually have a career goal in mind when they join or shortly thereafter. It is important to check for frustration over their progress or that their career objectives become less ambitious over time. Also check that they are clear on how to progress their career objectives in the organisation. If employees are hesitant to discuss the topic, it is likely to mean that they are reluctant to sound negative and there may still be an issue that needs pursuing.
2. Rewards and recognition
Employees respond to rewards and recognition when they believe the system is fair, the rewards and recognition are meaningful to them and are communicated in a way that suits their personality. Watch for sarcasm or frustration towards the idea that the organisation rewards and recognises its employees for excellence. At the individual level, people need to perceive that they have been rewarded or recognised. It is insufficient to believe that you have rewarded or recognised them. Check that they feel that way too.
Employees need to feel that their leaders, including their one-up manager, are open to new ideas whilst also clearly articulating the vision and gaols of the organisation. From their one-up manager they expect responsibility to be taken for failures as well as successes. They do look for inspiration, but not necessarily from their oratory. Inspiration can come from many sources, including but not limited to selfless behaviour, courage under fire from more senior managers, capacity to think and problem solve and ability to adapt. Completing a 360 degree assessment of the leadership team is a good way of understanding what impact leadership is having on the engagement of employees.
4. Organisational Culture
Employees remain engaged when working in a culture which is forward looking and customer focused. Cultures which stultify innovation and enshrine inflexibility drive employees to disengage. To understand your culture, a good model to use is Johnson and Scholes Cultural Web.
5. Congruence between roles and strategy
Employees need to feel that their roles have a concrete influence on the execution of strategy. They need to know how what they do contributes to something which is worthwhile in the future, not just the transactional issues of each day. Can your employees describe how what they do contributes to the execution of strategy to achieve the vision of the organisation? Do you have a formal link between vision, mission, governance (policies), strategy, processes and procedures and KPIs such that individuals can see how their leadership in their role contributes to the greater good? When this line of sight is weak, employees become disengaged.
6. Personal Development
Employees who do not have career progression as such, but feel they are experiencing personal development, are more likely to remain engaged. Personal development is in the eye of the beholder. People have to be asked about their personal development in conversation rather than be directly told about it. This may take some time and effort because the individual may not see that they have developed, having undergone that development small step by small step. To outside observers they may have developed a lot and whilst it’s good that they receive that feedback, they may need coaxing by their one-up manager to come to the same conclusion.
7. Work Life Balance
Work life balance is in the eye of the beholder too. What looks like balance to one person is unbalanced to another. Some people work to live while others live to work. At times, despite our best efforts, employees mimic the work behaviour of their leaders, thinking that they have to work long hours if their leader does. This may be the furthest thing from the leaders’ minds, as their view of work life balance is different from their followers. It is important to communicate expectations clearly in terms of work life balance to ensure that people do not have false expectations one way or another.