Engaging employees for success

Michelle Giovannozzi

How engaged an employee is depends largely on how well the individual’s strengths are matched to job responsibilities. Research shows that employees who apply their strengths on a daily basis are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. Similarly, teams focused on their strengths are 12.5 percent more productive.

Engaged employees are more productive and committed to increased business success. They are enthusiastic about and emotionally invested in their work, as well as focused on creating value for their employers. By contrast, disengaged employees are negative and potentially hostile toward their organizations. According to leading research by Gallup Inc., in the United States 29 percent of the workforce is engaged, 54 percent is not engaged and 18 percent is actively disengaged.

Why is employee engagement essential?

Gallup’s 2013 report on employee engagement, the State of the American Workplace, found that business units with high levels of employee engagement have less turnover than teams with low employee engagement – 65 percent less turnover in an industry with low turnover and 25 percent less in an industry with high turnover. In addition, engaged employees are psychologically committed to contribute positively to their organizations.

Disengaged workers lack motivation and are less likely to invest in organizational outcomes. The latter group is also unhappy, unproductive and liable to spread negativity to otherwise positive coworkers. Employees who are not engaged or are actively disengaged are more emotionally disconnected. They tend to work merely for a paycheck without any sense of personal commitment or emotional investment in their work. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates the cost of disengagement to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.

What are strategies for engaging employees?

To increase employee engagement company leaders can:

Take time to learn employees’ strengths and motivations, and then cultivate them. One way to do this is to create a development plan for each employee with the employee’s input. Review the plan regularly and provide support and resources whenever possible.

Create a culture of engagement. Reward workers who are focused, driven and productive with increased opportunity and compensation. Recognizing engaged performers will send a strong message to the rest of the team on what your company values and what it takes to succeed.

Encourage relationships. The most engaged employees are those who have friends on the job. A 2013 study by the Society for Human Resource Management discovered that 87 percent of employees polled identified their relationships with their co-workers as the top factor for job satisfaction. Consider team dynamics when hiring new team members and create opportunities for appropriate, relevant social interaction in the workplace.

Invest in employees and their future. Sponsor a tuition reimbursement plan or provide employee training on a regular basis. Investing in workers’ skills demonstrates commitment to their success and that of the organization overall. Some business owners are hesitant to invest in portable skills, fearing employees will leave and apply their new skills on another job. However, research shows the opposite. Providing development opportunities increases employee engagement and motivates workers to stay with their current job.

What results can be expected?

Companies striving to increase their competitiveness must learn how to engage their employees in order to achieve sustainable growth and attain their business goals. Gallup’s research showed that companies with high employee engagement, defined as those with at least 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee, experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share than their competition. This demonstrates the impact employee engagement can make on financial success and reinforces the idea that making employee engagement a priority can significantly impact a company’s business outcomes.

Michelle Giovannozzi is the director of Corporate and Community Partnerships, Clark College Corporate Education. She can be reached at mgiovannozzi@clark.edu.

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