How HR can drive Employee Engagement
The publication of the MacLeod report, “Engaging for Success”, in Mar 2009, confirmed what many larger organizations have known for some time. Employees who are deemed to be highly “Engaged” out perform those who are less engaged in almost every critical area from quality of work, productivity, accident rate to attendance and advocacy. The report was commissioned by the previous government and at 100 pages long is one of the most in-depth studies made into employee engagement. 43% less absence, staff retention up by 87%, individual performance increased by 20%, business financial performance 4 times higher. These are just a small sample of the comparative benefits reported by organizations of having more engaged employees. So what can an organization do to increase the engagement of their employees and what role can HR play.
There are four key areas where HR can take a major role, although it does depend somewhat upon how aware the senior management are of employee engagement.
Communicate, Educate, Inspire, Support.
Before any organization embarks on improving engagement they must be aware of what it is, what the benefits are and how to get it. There is a wealth of information now available and a huge amount of case studies showing real businesses getting real tangible results. HR can start this process of communication in many ways, find a sponsor on the board, make presentations to the board to raise awareness and create some desire. One of the key findings is that there needs to be real commitment from the top to make the changes required. Some have said that employee engagement represents a strategic opportunity for HR to re-establish the profession at the heart of business and organization success, rather then being seen as a cost centre or administrative centre.
Line managers are at the centre of what really makes the difference and they will need to be educated as to how their behaviours with direct reports have a direct correlation with levels of engagement. Once this is understood managers will need access to a wide range of tools, techniques and training to enable them to up-skill where required. HR may also have to ensure that only those with the right natural “talent” get to be in line management roles.
HR has a real opportunity to inspire others by developing the kind of organizational culture where engagement can thrive. Becoming champions themselves, aligning policy and building networks both internally and externally. Sharing success and creating a voice for employees.
Support is required in many ways but most importantly for those that will have to make the biggest changes. It may also mean providing support for those line managers who are unable to make the changes and recognition for those who can.
4 Line Manager Responsibilities:
Line managers have to do many things but there are three areas that really make the difference when it comes to building engaged employees.
Clarity & Stretch:
Engaging managers offer absolute clarity for what is expected from direct reports. They ensure it involves some stretch and are able to describe what great performance looks like. They know their people well and ensure where possible they match desire and skills to the work required.
Feedback & Coaching:
Engaging managers are skilled at giving timely corrective feedback in a way that motivates towards change and are constantly finding ways to recognize opportunities to give praise and recognition for things done well. They are also skilled at helping direct reports find their own solutions as a way of facilitating development.
Efficient Work Design:
Engaging managers know the work of their reports well and are actively involved in ensuring there is a constant challenge to make improvements and to ensure that people have the “right tools for the job” , where tools may be information systems.
Fairness & Respect:
Engaging managers know their people well, regularly talk to them and have a genuine concern for their wellbeing. They treat each person as an individual and build strong relationships. This creates an environment where respect and fairness are the norm..