Important drivers that increase employee engagement

A recent international study has shown that the following drivers have been identified as the most important that increases employee engagement – they are:

Manager-employee relationship
The manager-employee relationship is the most important driver of employee engagement; this relationship has been tied to employees’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their work or workplace and their subsequent decision of whether to stay in the workplace or go elsewhere. How you communicate with your employees and what you communicate to them are central issues in the relationship that lies at the heart of the psychological contract we mentioned in our definition of engagement. Therefore, you as a manager have the interesting challenge of forming genuine yet professional relationships with your employees that will benefit the company, the employee, and you.

Career development
Career development is another driver of engagement. Even though most employees, especially those who belong to the younger generations, will have several positions at several companies throughout their work lives, those changes are career development. Its meaning may have changed for different groups, but long-term career potential and promotion opportunities are still as relevant today as they were many years ago. These issues are important because they relate to an employee’s intent to stay in the workplace and the resulting decision will have an impact on the business.

Challenging Work
There are certain things employers can do to help promote a more stimulating and challenging environment for almost everyone. In our experience, these can include encouraging people to take initiative, being open to change, tolerating uncertainty, coaching and developing people’s skills, and holding people accountable for their performance.

Decision-making authority control
Employees want to control their own destiny as much as possible; control feeds both competence and confidence. Employees feel in control when they have a measure of power over how they do their work. Even when workloads are heavy, being able to control the flow and pace of their work can relieve pressure on employees, as can a feeling that they can turn to managers for resources and support when they need it.

Customer Focus
Why is a strong customer orientation so important to employees and to capturing their discretionary effort? It comes down to their pragmatism and core business savvy. Employees know their companies are in business to serve customers and that financial performance depends on doing that well. So they care whether their company is performing well in this area.

Feeling part of a work “community”
People’s positive emotions are strongly influenced by the people they work with day to day, by collaboration, teamwork and shared goals, and by a sense of a purpose in work (beyond just a pay check). Generating a sense of community is perhaps the most difficult challenge, especially in a culture where loyalties are divided or morale is low. However, establishing a two-way communication program that emphasises the goals of the organisation and the roles employees should play is a good first step.

Employee perceptions of job importance
An employee’s attitude toward the job’s importance and the company has the greatest impact on loyalty and customer service than all other employee factors combined.

Employee clarity of job expectations
If expectations are not clear and basic materials and equipment is not provided, negative emotions such as boredom or resentment may result, and the employee may then become focused on surviving more than thinking about how he can help the organisation succeed.

Career advancement/improvement opportunities
Plant supervisors and managers indicated that many plant improvements were being made outside the suggestion system, where employees initiated changes in order to reap the bonuses generated by the subsequent cost savings.

Regular feedback and dialogue with superiors
Feedback is the key to giving employees a sense of where they are going, but many organisations are remarkably bad at giving it. What they really want to hear is, “Thanks, you did a good job”.

Quality of working relationships with peers, superiors, and subordinates
If employees’ relationship with their managers is fractured, then no amount of perks will persuade the employees to perform at top levels. Employee engagement is a direct reflection of how employees feel about their relationship with the boss.

Perceptions of the ethos and values of the organisation
Inspiration and values are the most important of the six drivers in the Engaged Performance model. Inspirational leadership is the ultimate perk. In its absence, it is unlikely to engage employees.

Effective internal employee communications
This conveys a clear description of “what’s going on”.

Engaging leadership
Ensures a strong, transparent, and explicit organisational culture that gives employees a line of sight between their job and the vision and aims of the organisation. Such leaders are strategic, anticipatory, proactive, and people focused. They provide a clear strategic narrative about where the organisation is going and why, in a way that gives employees information and insight for their own job.

Engaging managers
They are more critical in driving effort on a day-to-­day basis. They offer clarity about what is expected from individual members of staff, which involves some stretch, appreciation and feedback/coaching and training. They also treat people as individuals, with fairness, respect and with a concern for employees’ well-being. They also ensure work is designed efficiently and effectively. In companies that do this well, managers treat people as individuals, as full human beings.

Employee voice
Employees feel able to voice their ideas and be listened to, both about how to do their job and in decision-making in their own department, with joint sharing of problems and challenges and a commitment to arrive at joint solutions. In companies that do this well, there is a constant free flow of ideas up and down and across the organisation. This requires managers who are willing to listen to people and are not afraid of relinquishing control.

Organisation lives the values
A belief among employees that the organisation lives its values, and that adopted behavioural norms are adhered to, results in trust and a sense of integrity. In organisations that do this well, values and behaviours are aligned, creating integrity and trust. Any gap between these creates distrust and cynicism.

Organisational purpose
In particular, the nature of the organisation’s purpose may have a differentiating effect on levels of engagement. Research by Holbeche and Springett (2004) into how people experience meaning at work found that an organisational purpose that focuses intensely on customers is more likely to engage staff than those focused on shareholders, profits, or a mix of stake­holder needs. However, it is essential that there is a clear line of sight to this purpose in people’s day jobs if the motivational effect is to be achieved. Bureaucracy and inconsistent behaviours, policies, and practices act as barriers and lead to cynicism and disengagement.

For more information contact Ben vd Westhuyzen at ben@succeedgroup.co.za

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.