Engagement… the Most Wanted Intangible

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By Macarena Carrión García de Velasco, Senior HR Consultant at Meta4

A couple of weeks ago I met up with a group of friends and at some point we ended up talking about the typical buzzwords we’ve all heard of and even incorporated into our everyday language.

I mean newer trendy words like hipster, selfie, belfie, crowdfunding,  and of course, the ever ubiquitous term engagement. Although this is essentially about commitment, it seems if we use this instead of the more modern term engagement, we would still be stuck in the stone ages.

Joking apart, it’s important to analyze what is engagement really

Over time we realize that one of the main differentiating values of organizations is their human capital which plays a crucial role in achieving success. For this success to be long-lasting, instead of something fleeting, it is not enough to just correctly align human capital to a good corporate strategy; it also requires a high dose of employee-company-employee engagement.

Yes, I mean just that: the relationship from employee to company and company back to the employee. This roundtrip is what is referred to colloquially as engagement.

The current socio-economic situation has led market leaders to single out  the importance of and the need for engaged employees who are talented and enthusiastic about their work. It is absolutely vital  that we understand that a happy employee does not have to be an engaged employee. It relatively easy to have happy employees, what is really difficult is to engage employees with the organization who are willing to contribute actively to achieving company goals. As shown in a Gallup study, only 13% of employees globally analyzed were really engaged with their respective companies.

Does this mean engagement is a pipe dream?

No, by no means is a pipe dream; engagement in the context of the company can happen and lead to excellent results, so long as there is true willingness to maintain a relationship in which both employer and employee win. At the moment when the balance between them  breaks down, then it is just a matter of time before engagement breaks down.

I understand that after all I’ve said, many of you will wonder if engaged employees exist or if they are yet another urban legend. The answer to this question is that they do exist and they are very normal people. Personally I have had the opportunity to work with some of them and I must admit that their desire to work and their commitment is contagious. We can recognize them quite easily, an engaged employee pools together the following attitudes:

  • Always speaks positively of the organization, has a high opinion of the organization’s brand, its services or products and would certainly have no qualms in recommending us to work for the organization.
  • Feels proud to be an active part of the organization, is completely aligned with the organization’s values and culture, and is very unlikely consider leaving
  • Usually puts in extra effort beyond that formally stipulated in the contract and contributes to the success of the business

How to identify companies truly engaged with employees?

This is a sensitive issue because if we can say that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged, then the percentage of organizations truly engaged with their employees is not much higher.

There are many organizations who claim high engagement with their employees, but when analyzed in detail, it is easy to see that these are merely declarations of intent, accompanied by occasional actions in the interest of employees.

We can say an organization is truly engaged with their employees when:

  • For this organization, their employees are the most important asset; they look after their professional development and enable them to exploit their potential.
  • It encourages employees to participate in leadership, allowing these to motivate themselves, to become more involved and to optimize the way they work so as to add value.
  • It recognizes and outstanding efforts and performance, “there is no greater inequality than to treat the unequal equally”.
  • It is concerned about the quality of life of their employees and ensures their needs are satisfied.

Knowing the extent of employee engagement serves little to an organization, if it does not know their employees nor apply actions to increase engagement effectively. So I have put together some of the actions that I believe to have a greater impact:

  • Onboarding or welcome programmes for new hires: to facilitate the integration of these employees into the organization’s culture, values and procedures. It is very difficult for new employees to become involved if they do not have a clear overview of the organization and their role within it, of what is expected from them and their frame of reference for action.
  • Allow employees to be the protagonists of their own development, providing access to find out more about and participate in career plans, appraising them and providing constructive feedback regularly, providing the training needed to enable them improve and develop, as well as assign individualized development plans.
  • Build and/or strengthen a culture of appreciation, be it either public or private.
  • Promote formulas and policies for employee work-life balance.
  • Provide the necessary resources and the best conditions for performing their jobs.
  • Implement competitive compensation policies compared to the market and flexible compensation systems adapted to the individual needs of employees.
  • Using HR technology solutions can be a determining factor when analyzing and strengthening employee engagement. These solutions streamline HR departments in their daily jobs to train, evaluate, select, reward or develop their employees. Such solutions also allow them to interact directly with employees, managing their needs and expectations through creating two-way communication.

Different studies have shown that the direct impact of engaged employees is very high. Organizations with engaged workers enjoy greater benefits that those that do not have engaged employees; their customers are more loyal and generally better prepared for adverse situations.

Now all that remains is to ask ourselves; are we “truly engaged” organizations?

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