A recent poll by WTW found almost all of those asked (95%) are concerned about retaining talent in 2023… (Source: HR Review.co.uk)

Employee Engagement – what actually is it?!

There’s no doubt about it, the recruitment market is tough at the moment – but how do you go about retaining a great employee once they are working with you?

It’s often more simple than we like to think – and even more often, overlooked!

We hear the term ‘employee engagement’ banded about on a regular basis – but what do we actually mean by this?

Simply put – engagement is the level of motivation and dedication an employee feels toward their job and the organisation they work for.

Say vs. do

It’s not about the words. Actions count. . .

It is wise to look at how we take accountability as leaders. We should be aiming for our Say:Do Ratio to be 1:1 – for every promise, commitment or agreement that we make, we should follow through and deliver accordingly. A high ratio sets the conditions for increased credibility and authenticity, which facilitate efficient collaboration. On the flip side, if your Say:Do ratio decreases, you lose credibility and even attract suspicion. Maintaining alignment with people’s expectations is key.

Risks of the annual survey

Whilst it’s a great thing to be able to say that you focus on employee engagement – how you go about this is important – and says a lot about you as an organisation. Lots of businesses chose to utilise an annual engagement survey, for example – and whilst this can work, more often than not, it doesn’t quite hit the spot.

There are a number of reasons for this – firstly, things change on a regular basis. We work in increasingly agile environments – the landscape is changing regularly . . .to only actively ask someone what they think once a year doesn’t necessarily cut it. There is also the risk of ‘engagement fatigue’ . . .people know when the survey is coming and can feel quite sceptical about any activity around this time to ‘push up’ scores . . .whereas, if you take the time to understand how someone feels on a regular basis (more on this later), it just becomes part of ‘who you are’ and ‘what you do’. In fact, here at The HR Consultants, we tend not to talk about ‘engagement’ and focus instead on our ‘ways of working’. It’s simply about who we are and the way we behave with our clients – and each other.

Secondly, where an annual survey is utilised, there can be the tendency to focus on an engagement ‘score’ – and, beyond this, to introduce targets around this score and manage managers accordingly. Some companies even attach bonuses to engagement scores – which feels counter-intuitive, right?

Benefits of a pulse approach

Getting into the habit and rhythm of checking in with employees and finding out what is important to them is not only beneficial – it’s vital to creating an open and honest culture, built on trust. Things change quickly in business and knowing that you have the mechanisms to keep close to what’s going on and how people are feeling, will stand you in good stead.

One size does not fit all!

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that everyone is motivated by the same things . . . or that what works for one organisation will work for another. Take the time to find out what your people think – and be prepared to try things out. Remember – your approach to failure also says something about you as an organisation.

You said. We did.

Work to create a culture that embraces an ongoing dialogue between leaders and employees. Tell people where and how you have listened to and embraced feedback – and what you’ve done about it. AND, when you can’t do something – tell people this too! Treat people like adults – give them the context and trust them to be able to deal with this. Adult to Adult relationships will provide the greatest opportunity for high p[performance and success – both on an indicial and organisational level.

Ask. And then listen

One of the greatest skills we can develop as leaders (or indeed, as human beings!) is our ability to listen. Truly listen. Not as easy as it sounds…

We are busy people. It can be very challenging to block out the ‘noise’ when engaging with other people. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t found themselves thinking about what time they need to pick their child up or what they need to buy for dinner whilst having a conversation with someone else? Not ideal, but it happens. We have to work hard to be fully present and awareness is the first step.

Giving yourself the best opportunity to be able to listen – think about the environment, and the time you give something – set yourself up for success. To really listen, we must make a conscious effort to not just hear but also absorb, digest, and understand what others are saying.

Above all – truly listening means that we have to challenge ourselves not to control or predict the outcome…and to challenge ourselves to become comfortable with this.

 Top tips

  • Keep some space for unplanned conversations with team members: take the time to talk to them as individuals (and not just about tasks/work priorities). Believe us, the investment will be noticed – and valued
  • Understand the culture you want to create – and dedicate some time to understand what this will look like – and the action you need to take in order to make it a reality
  • Adopt a strengths-based approach – both for the individual and the organisation. What are you great at? How can you do more of this?
  • Communicate. Communicate – even when there is nothing to say or you don’t have all the answers.
  • Know that employee engagement ultimately impacts your bottom line. Sustained high performance is only possible where people are motivated and committed. Decide today what more you need to do to address engagement in your organisation. It’ll be time well spent.
  • None of this stuff is ‘once and done’ To really make a difference, you will need to pay regular attention and adapt your approach.