It is a well known fact that a healthy happy workforce is a productive one. Research and countless studies have proven the correlation between employee engagement and performance. Identifying and understanding the various workplace elements that motivate employees and influence them to stay and commit to an organisation has to be a priority human resource focus for all organisations.
So where do you start? It is my opinion that every CEO in every company, large or small, should be undertaking annual employee engagement surveys to measure existing employee engagement levels. Using an external provider is a must to ensure honest responses.
However, engagement shouldn’t just be an annual staff survey where results may be acted on - a survey is just one small part of an overall business strategy where employee engagement is the core.
Keeping employees engaged is an on-going process that needs to be hard wired into an organisation’s DNA.
In May 2009 our engagement score at AIM was an embarrassing 39%. The low engagement score alerted us to the fact that we needed to make some fundamental changes to our organisation if we wanted to retain talented employees.
Two years later the engagement score had climbed to 72%. Aon Hewitt’s research indicates that organisations with engagement scores above 65% consistently deliver better business results. Employee engagement levels below 30% tend to erode an organisation’s ability to deliver on its objectives.
What did we do to bring about such a sharp increase and what advice would I give organisations in a similar predicament?
Make your company’s vision real to every single person within your organisation
One of my favourite parables is that of the brick layer and the cathedral builder. In summary, it relates to the tale of the man who when walking past a construction site asked the builders what they were doing. One said, he was laying bricks, a second said he was feeding his family and a third said he was building a cathedral to the glory of God.
People need to feel like the work they are doing is part of something larger, something which is achieving an important end. At AIM, over the past few years we have worked hard to communicate a compelling vision our employees want to be a part of. We’ve done our best to make sure every single person within the organisation, from the marketing manager and event organiser right through to the librarian and receptionist, understands their role and contribution in helping AIM achieve its vision: to develop better managers and leaders for a better society.
Live your company’s values
Once you’ve made your hoped-for future clear, consistently focus on keeping that vision top of mind and working together to achieve it. Employees who see for themselves their company’s senior leaders support and live the company’s values are much more committed to their employers.
Remove anyone from your organisation who doesn’t live the company’s values
If you do not to act on inappropriate workplace values you are, in reality, choosing to condone inappropriate behaviour. If an employee chooses not to work by your company’s core values, then serious consideration needs to be given to whether the member of staff has a future within the organisation. Their negative attitude will have a knock on effect on fellow team members.
Understand the role managers play
I believe that while engagement may start at the top, the role managers play in the process is integral. A CEO may have a great idea but if he or she does not have the systems and processes in place to support it, then the idea amounts to nothing. Managers are the powerhouse, the engine room of an organisation, and if they aren’t equipped with the necessary skills to implement the changes an organisation needs, all efforts are redundant.
Give managers the tools and training they need to become great motivators. Once they can empower their own teams, the sky is the limit.
There is no silver bullet that will deliver high levels of employee engagement overnight and certainly there is no off-the-shelf solution. However, whilst some employees may have been attracted to a company by money, most usually stay for purpose. Passionate and engaged employees will sacrifice status and pay to have more meaningful work. Creating a compelling vision and making that vision real to each and every individual within the organisation is a key starting point to a motivated, happy and productive workforce.
About the author
David Wakeley is CEO of the Australian Institute of Management NSW and ACT