Before deciphering why it’s important, we need to first establish what it means to engage employees. I have found that the most useful definition includes three key features, the first of which is that staff have a sense of organisational citizenship. They are proud to belong to their organisation, and being advocates of its products and services to other potential employees and customers. Secondly, employees are willing to give their discretionary effort, to go the extra mile, or put in those additional hours when needed. Lastly, when you engage employees it gives them more of a reason to stay, coupled with a belief that they have room to grow and fulfil their potential and career aspirations within the organisation. So, why are each of these aspects so important to companies? (1) The rise of the gig economy The rise of the gig economy has meant a sharp increase in the use of freelance or short-term jobs, allowing greater flexibility to the employer, but also to employees when choosing to “jump ship”. For this reason, managers need to focus on each member of staff, whether they have a permanent or freelance contract, to ensure they feel valued and engaged. It lowers the chances of them moving on unexpectedly. (2) Customer advocacy Customer advocacy should ultimately be the end goal of all organisations, and this means reaching a state where customers are so happy and content with your service or products that they actively and consciously recommend you to others. This can only be achieved effectively if the people who interact with customers every day, are themselves passionate about and committed to the services they are providing – resultant of when you engage employees. (3) Innovation In today’s fast-changing business environment, innovation is key to the continuing success of a company. Numerous research results have shown that high employee engagement figures link closely to the overall success of a business, measured by factors such as sales, profits, customer satisfaction and possibly most importantly innovation. As part of a survey conducted by Engage for Success, 1.59 per cent of engaged employees said that their job brings out their most creative ideas, compared to just three per cent who were less engaged. (4) Employee satisfaction and employer brand It is important to highlight that when you engage employees, it isn’t all about the company and its profits. If members of staff feel included and thought-about, they are much more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs and are will be positive individuals. Satisfied members of staff are less likely to switch jobs, which means lower recruitment and training costs. They are also more likely to have a positive view of the company, which is important for the “employer brand” where the public image of a company can be enhanced or put at risk by comments of employees on social media. (5) Increased productivity When team members are engaged they will have a connection to their managers and the organisation and they will feel like their work is important and beneficial. They are more likely to put in that ‘discretionary effort’ I mentioned earlier, that produces great work and enhances productivity. They are also less likely to be absent if they enjoy their job. These are just a handful of reasons why employee engagement is important and why some of the world’s leading companies strive to improve and maintain high levels of employee engagement to create a competitive advantage. Nigel Purse is founder of The Oxford Group
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