Welcome to the first in a series of articles dedicated to what truly delivers an engaged and committed workforce. Emerge Development Consultancy Ltd, has been supporting major global organisations for over 20 years and through this experience, we have observed and reported on many themes and trends for business performance, but there is one which is the crucial formula for business success.
The key to any successful organisation is its employees (I know…ground-breaking right!). But let’s be more specific – each individual’s capability, productivity and, most importantly, their level of connection with the organisational purpose and its goals. When this is all in place and occurring with consistency, this is when something truly magical can happen!
The research is there for all to see and is absolutely saturated with empirical evidence from across the business world and from the ever-increasing population of organisational psychologists. The ‘ideal’ scenario is relatively simple for business leaders – how an employee feels about their work drives a higher level of engagement and the better they feel about that work, the better they will perform and it is less likely that they will want to leave. The lens through which they look at their world of work is the single biggest influence on employee engagement.
The benefits to the organisation to get this right and ensure that every employee is engaged can be commercially significant, with the following being just a small snapshot of the importance…
- Increased productivity
- Commitment to continuous improvement
- More creativity and innovation
- Better staff retention
- Reduced absenteeism
- Higher morale
- Reduced operational costs
- Reduction of negativity and limiting behaviours
- Establishing a more agile workforce and better support for changes
- Better knowledge retention
- Greater customer care
- Higher quality sales
- Enviable employee experiences
- The attraction of the best talent
- Higher and more consistent standards of performance
So why is it that we still have an issue with employee engagement? Gallop reported in 2016 that UK engagement had fallen from 17% in 2012 to just 8% in 2016. Since that date, there’s been quite a bit of turmoil in the UK – we will share the latest results from Gallop very soon!
Can leaders really make the difference?
In today’s fast-moving, competitive world, organisations are constantly searching for ways to improve productivity, performance and grow their business. However, cultivating effective and consistent employee engagement as the catalyst for this is something that many organisations still struggle to do in amongst everything else.
Is anyone taking employee engagement seriously anymore? Does it really matter? Surely employees should just be able to pick themselves up and get on with it?
For the majority of industry-leading organisations, top of the wish list is having an engaged workforce – nowadays it is only a handful of companies that have not woken up to this need and the benefits it creates. Organisations are crying out for better cultures and there is a big recognition that archaic forms of management that are focused on maintaining ‘business as usual’, who continually demand greater efficiencies, who hold the power with centralised direction and who adopt a style of ‘command and control’ will certainly not deliver the culture they want.
The willingness (for some) to view poor practices of leadership as an acceptable standard has created a leadership bubble of sorts; the good news is all bubbles eventually pop. For the many organisations still desperately holding on to outdated, ineffective methods of management and leadership, it is time to embrace a different direction before it’s too late. Businesses operating on the old leadership paradigm are quickly becoming irrelevant on the way to obsolete, while organisations that embrace the new leadership paradigm are both scalable, sustainable and more conducive to performance.
We face challenging times – new technologies, advancing digital strategies, innovative and changeable market conditions, a fluctuating political landscape, economic disruption and social and climatically heightened tensions. This challenges everyone and to be frank, it’s pretty complex! Customers have become even more informed (and expectant) through an increase of choice and ease of access to information and solutions. All of which require great leadership to help navigate our employees through such tricky waters towards a steady calm – if there is such a thing!
The truth of the matter is businesses struggle with leadership at every level – defining it, identifying it, attracting it, developing it, deploying it, retaining it, measuring it and planning for its succession. Far too many people in positions of leadership remain unwilling or unable to make the changes necessary to create a healthy, thriving enterprise capable of enduring. These so-called leaders are lacking the character, the courage, or the ability to do the right thing. They cling to the status quo rather than subject themselves to the challenges of growth, development and change.
Now, more than ever, we require leaders that care, are creative, take responsibility and are prepared to challenge the status quo – which is why the presence and influence of truly modern and inclusive leadership is so important. Leadership that galvanises and connects leaders to their employees. Leadership that stimulates the hearts and minds, generates trust and inspires employees to see their work through a whole new lens.
According to the research by leadership development experts Dr. Brad Shuck and Maryanne Honeycutt-Elliott, “higher levels of engagement come from employees who work for a compassionate leader – one who is authentic, present, has a sense of dignity, holds others accountable, leads with integrity and shows empathy”.
We cannot simply tell people to be engaged, empowered and creative (although many have tried and continue to try!) Indeed, the level of authenticity that supports this does not lie at the bottom of a half-hearted employee incentive scheme or an annual team development event, although some have proved successful, it is often short-lived as cynicism flows freely! Organisations must establish a culture which allows, encourages and rewards those leaders for the execution of consistent and impactful practices that drive the employees to think, feel and behave in ways that truly live and breathe the values or the organisation.
When the survey takes over…
So what is so wrong with employee engagement initiatives that we are involved with today? Are we not enjoying ourselves? Yes – perhaps a happy workforce is important. And the health and well-being of our team members has rightly accelerated up the leader’s priority list too. But are we absolutely sure that our people managers are as focused as we would like on those factors which truly are the difference that makes the difference to employee engagement? If not, what if they could be? Has HR continually held the baton for something which is truly a business initiative? And is this really on the leadership radar?
Is this a classic scenario for you?
The task-orientated approach to employee engagement – typically driven down from the executive team and HR and re-surfaced at the point of the annual employee engagement survey, then, all must adhere to the creation of a 3-point-plan that is created by each leader on what they will address in the next 3, 6, 12 months… which may involve a few grand gestures that act as a plaster (or band-aid depending on where you are from) for the engagement-wound. We give you the ‘typical’ employee engagement strategy. Of course, this consistently drives the change that we wish to see… that’s correct – isn’t it? What if we could flip this focus, so that employee engagement truly was the core focus? That being – what leaders should actually be nurturing and cultivating every day so that the employee experience is industry-leading – could this influence the creation of truly enviable employee engagement and inclusive leadership that encourages everyone to thrive?
If you, like many, wish to explore a new and better way, then contact email@example.com. We can help support you and your leadership teams with delivering better-engaged employees that are more productive and deliver even better results.
EPIC Engagement is a solution for driving employee engagement through better-equipped management practices. Our innovative solution should be considered as a comprehensive development programme, diagnostic and measurement aid for one of the most important business metrics to your organisation’s performance and productivity. The EPIC Engagement approach focuses on the two biggest catalysts to employee engagement – how employees feel about their work and the capability and influence of their manager. Through this programme, we will measure your manager’s current capabilities for delivering the kind of experience that will inspire their people to perform. Once they have mastered certain core aspects of management and leadership, we can continue to measure their ability to inspire, motivate and engage their people in the core elements of Expectations, Progress, Inspiration and Collaboration. Speak with Emerge today at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free and non-obligatory discussion around the EPIC Engagement programme.