HR & Management

Why you might be failing to engage your employees

7 min read

04 December 2015

Managers who understand the benefit of employee engagement, will have a more collaborative work environment. This will lead to an engaging and productive workspace.

However, in a majority of organisations, employee engagement remains lower than 35 per cent. In light of this information, Impraise conducted a study based on over 30,000 feedback interactions between hundreds of managers and employees to see how they would differ from each other when asking for feedback. The results were interesting and gave a better understanding of the how engaged employees are.

Understanding emotional commitment

It’s important to understand what employee engagement actually means. According to Kevin Kruse, author of “We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement”, employee engagement is “the emotional commitment that we have to our organisation and the organisation’s goals. When we’re engaged, we’re emotionally committed, which means we’re going to give effort voluntarily. We’re going to go the extra mile.” Some influencers go further and talk about “sustainable engagement” which, according to Tony Schwartz, co-author of “The Power of Full Engagement”, means “the added energy derived from the capacity for absorbed focus and a strong sense of purpose.”

The new meta-analysis of over 1.4m employees conducted by the Gallup Organisation found that organisations with a high level of engagement report 22 per cent higher productivity and profitability. The analysis also found that highly engaged organisations have double the rate of success of lower engaged ones. However, despite all those benefits, Kevin Sheridan author of “Building a Magnetic Culture”, said even the best companies register only about 38 per cent of employees as “fully engaged”. So why does employee engagement remain so low?

Interpersonal vs productivity

The “Global analysis: How real-time feedback affects work performance and employee engagement” report by Impraise found that employees are more likely to ask for feedback on their interpersonal skills, such as listening (55 per cent) and leadership (15 per cent). Managers, on the other hand, are more concerned about their productivity (42 per cent) and presentation skills (85 per cent). 

So how do these results relate to employee engagement? The latter starts with leadership, and good leadership involves understanding your employees’ values and what they care about most. What is clear from this report is that employees emphasise getting feedback on interpersonal skills over any other skill, whereas managers keep prioritising technical skills such as productivity and presentation. This demonstrates a clear disruption in priorities from managers and employees in the workplace. So how to know if this disruption is taking place in your company and boost your employee engagement?

Real-time engagement

Analysing comes first when boosting engagement. Before doing anything in particular, measuring the level of engagement in your company will create a benchmark from which you can make decisions.  Measuring methods still differ among companies. Ryan Fuller, an effectiveness expert with over 20 years of experience, proposes some aspects to measure in order to get an overview of the engagement level.

The amount of work that occurs outside of normal working hours, the number of network connections and time spent with people outside of immediate team or region, the percentage of participation in ad-hoc meetings and initiatives vs. recurring meetings and processes and time spent collaborating directly with customers outside of the normal scope of work, are some of the aspects that Fuller suggests to focus on. Another solution for measuring can be the classic quick surveys every three weeks to analyse the employee satisfaction level or any of the new employee feedback apps that are on the rise. Many companies are ditching previous methods and choosing this continuous approach to feedback that is cost effective and beneficial to every team member.

By using those tools managers can access real-time numbers of how engaged their employees are by asking specific questions and setting deadlines for desired answers. Employees can also ask their managers for feedback about specific skills, giving managers an overall look at which specific skills their employees want to work on. By knowing the skills employees are keen on improving, profiling becomes easier, and taking that into consideration before assigning tasks will first improve your strength- based development and ultimately improve productivity.

Focus on the purpose – boost engagement

Now that you have an approximate approach of the level of engagement in your company, it’s time to work on boosting it. According to Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup Research, “One way to simplify engagement is to focus on purpose. Communicate the purpose of the organisation, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose. When employees clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfil their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organisational purpose,” said Harter, that’s the recipe for creating greater levels of engagement.

Eliminating stress, showing appreciation and giving your employees the opportunity to grow are three pillars to boost employee engagement. According to research by Towers Watson, employees who experience too much stress at work are less engaged and less productive. For that, simple activities to distend such as guided meditation sessions three times a week for 20 minutes before working would help to reduce everyone’s stress. For showing appreciation, expressing praise regularly, not just at annual reviews or holiday parties would make your employees work harder and care more about their jobs when their efforts are noticed and rewarded.

For employees, the desire to find better growth opportunities became the number one reason today’s talented young employees are leaving their employers. In order to keep your current employees engaged, a good way to show employees that you want them to grow professionally and keep them in the team is to have 1:1 conversations about personal and professional goals, outlining how the company can help to this process of growing.

Steffen Maieris the co-founder of Impraise.