Are leaders taking employee engagement seriously?

HRD talks to Jessica Gopalan of Dale Carnegie about why leaders are neglecting the issue

Are leaders taking employee engagement seriously?

In times of crisis, it's easy for leaders to neglect employee engagement in favour of other strategic concerns, according to Jessica Gopalan, regional marketing manager at Dale Carnegie.

Gopalan told HRD that juggling external pressure from an increasingly competitive and globalised marketplace, as well as pressure from stakeholders for bottom line results is “no simple task”. Yet employee engagement remains one of the most important objectives of senior leaders today.

In fact, according to a report from Deloitte 85% of company leaders said that employee engagement is an important strategic priority.

“However, we found in our own research that just 31% of front-line employees and managers strongly agreed that their organisation is actually making engagement a top priority - and this gap is evident in the flat engagement scores most industries have seen over recent years.”

Gopalan added that it's important that leaders not give in to the temptation to deprioritise employee engagement during a time when an engaged workforce is needed most.

Indeed, Dale Carnegie’s whitepaper Employee Engagement: It’s Time to Go ‘All-In’ found that those who make engaging their employees a daily priority also enjoy much lower employee turnover relative to other groups in their organisation.

It also found that combining a culture of engagement along with effective training and an emphasis on the personal benefits of having fully engaged employees, provides a powerful impact on the likelihood that leaders will make employee engagement a daily priority.

Gopalan said that having an engaged workforce is a competitive advantage that provides concrete results in terms of lower turnover and absenteeism, better customer metrics, and higher productivity and profitability.

“Our research shows that when leaders maintain a culture of engagement, treat engagement as they would any other critical initiative, and provide the skills and training managers need to be able to engage their teams, engagement levels rise,” said Gopalan.

“For this to occur, leaders must spend more time developing trust with their employees.”

So, what would be Gopalan’s advice to HR professionals to make engaging their employees a daily priority?

“Employee engagement remains one of the most important objectives of HR professionals today,” said Gopalan.

“Maximising the entire employee experience is no simple task, but when it comes to improving engagement, most companies need look no further than their own leadership for the best starting point.

“Clearing the way for leaders of people to put engagement first takes real courage because saying “yes” to engagement, can mean having to say “no” to some other priority.”

Additionally, organisations must invest in motivating, coaching and equipping their employees with skills which support their corporate culture.

According to Gopalan, there are several drivers that produce a powerful impact in influencing leaders to make employee engagement a daily priority.

These include a developing a culture of engagement, strong organisational support, leadership by example, effective training and an emphasis on the personal benefits of having fully engaged teams.

“Ensuring that all of these drivers are in place presents its own challenges, and HR professionals who want to improve the likelihood that their leaders at every level are thinking about, planning for and acting on employee engagement every day can begin by opening dialogue with managers, aligning policies and examining organisational priorities.”

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