Whats driving the current focus on employee engagement?

Written by
Glenn Elliott

07 Dec 2015

07 Dec 2015 • by Glenn Elliott

This suggests that more than three quarters of employees are not engaged, a huge waste of organisational resources that we can’t afford in this all out super-competitive world that we now live in.

Until relatively recently, technology initiatives in employee engagement largely comprised of employee benefits programmes filled with financial products like life insurance and mortgages. They did a much better job of delivering profit to insurance brokers than helping to engage or reward employees and unsurprisingly, business leaders weren’t noticing results. 

Investing only in remuneration and benefits can sometimes have a short term impact on attrition but done in isolation it will have no impact on employee engagement. In fact over-investment in pay and benefits at the expense of wider employee engagement activities can lead to the worst of all organisational outcomes: a very expensive but disengaged and demotivated workforce that has low attrition because staff are trapped in a job by salaries or packages they can’t match elsewhere.

As HR practitioners, we’ve got much better at employee engagement. We have a deeper understanding of what engagement means and we’ve got a better developed filter against insurance brokers who think a new pension scheme will engage a workforce. As CEO of an employee engagement business myself, over the past few years I have noticed a huge shift. The level of understanding in HR professionals has increased exponentially, as has their confidence in explaining this to their business and getting new programmes over the line. Our experience shows that they are moving it to the top of their priorities list and are actively engaging with leadership, and encouraging them to buy into the concept by demonstrating its value. But what has caused this shift? 

The short answer...

 ... is that the advancement of technology has made today’s business world more competitive and faster than ever before. This competition is driving standards higher everywhere. In many industries, sales have been optimised, procurement costs are as low as possible and marketing has been automated. So what’s left? The answer is your employees - the last frontier between a business and success.

In the future I think there will be two types of businesses that will genuinely thrive: those that eliminate their people and those that engage their people. Having armies of expensive disengaged people on the payroll simply won't be an option anymore.

In the last 10 years we’ve worked with over 1,100 organisations. That work has taught us that there are three key reasons why organisations who understand and leverage employee engagement thrive.

Firstly, engaged employees make better decisions, because they care more. Employees on every level, from those in customer service to those in marketing, make decisions that impact your business on a daily basis. When they understand where the business is going and their role within that, they can apply that knowledge to the choices they are making. 
Secondly, engaged employees are more productive, because they like or love what they are doing. Having a productive workforce does not mean making them work that extra hour, it means they’re focused. And when the culture makes you feel valued and included, you’re more likely to enjoy what you do and less likely to be distracted. 

Thirdly, engaged employees innovate more, because they want their organisation to succeed. Innovation is costly on a personal level, it means putting yourself out there and comes with a risk of failure. But an engaged employee doesn’t just understand what the business is trying to achieve, they want it to do well because they are personally invested in the business’ success.