Head of Human Resources, Weir Minerals India Private Limited
Employee engagement has been considered as a significant contributor to the success of any organization. Though it is widely discussed, most organisations fail to achieve 100 percent engagement at the workplace. Gallup's most recent global survey finds only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. According to the latest State of the American Workplace report, just 33% of employed residents in the United States are engaged at work.
It is surprising to see that these percentages are not much changed for a long time though constant efforts have been put by organisations to improve it. So where are the organisations going wrong in understanding the pulse of the employees? What do employees need in order to be fully engaged in the workplace? are the challenging questions faced by HR Professionals.
In this article, I have attempted to brief some of my experiences which have helped to turnaround the disengaged workforce to engaged in the organisations I have worked for.
History and meaning:
Before getting into initiatives, let us understand the meaning of employee engagement. The term employee engagement is first used by Dr. William Kahn, the father of employee engagement. He defines engagement as - "harnessing of organization members' selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances”.
He mentions three psychological conditions to enable it and they are meaningfulness, safety, and availability.
Further, he defines the disengagement as “Employees cognitive and emotional withdrawal from their job and the organization”. In disengagement employees just do enough to retain their jobs, but offer none of their cognitive or emotional energy to the job. They are what you might call “clock punchers”. Whereas, in Engagement employees will fix work-related problems without being told because they believe that it is beneficial to the organization and its people.
In my understanding, employee engagement means building trust in employees that the organization cares them as a person, provides them a safe and developing environment where they naturally do their best without being asked. In other words, employee engagement simply means making employees own the organization.
With this background let me brief a few steps and methods we have used as HR team with the help of other colleagues and the top management to turn around the disengagement workforce to highly engaged.
1. Measuring the present level of engagement:
Though disengagement signs are quite visible in terms of high attrition, absenteeism, low productivity, increased accident rates, increased customer complaints and badmouthing etc it is important to know the present level of engagement or disengagement. It is said that ‘what cannot be measured cannot be improved. Hence this is the first step of the process.
There are several good tools in the market to measure engagement levels. They come with advanced features that make the user generate reports and analyse the feedback easily, provide complete data to the managers with strengths and areas of improvement of their teams. They also provide sufficient tips and insights how to improve the engagement score driver wise. but choosing the right tool is a crucial decision.
2. Designing the questions:
Most of the survey questions we see in engagement are passive. For example, Do you have a clear goal? Do you have meaningful work? Do you have a best friend in the workplace? etc are most likely to get the answers which could mislead us. We have changed the questions to an active mode and asked like Have you done your best to set clear goals? Have you done your best to build positive relations? Have you done your best to be fully engaged? Have you done your best to find meaning in what you did? These active questions have helped us to get the true level of engagement.
3. Communicating the purpose:
In my experience, just rolling out the survey with formal communication won't really help to get the maximum participation and feedback. Taking the line managers into confidence and making them engagement champions have been very helpful. Using all the channels such as toolbox talks, sunrise meetings, sunset meetings, Weekly meetings, and Townhalls effectively and design of the communication toolkit and display in places like canteen, recreation room, and restrooms to have helped to drive the message strongly. Needless to say, all our communications have highlighted the fact that employee feedback is very important for the organization’s growth.
4. Sharing the feedback:
After completion of the survey, thanking all the participants for their time and feedback and sharing the insights of the survey without delay is key to hold employees' interest. Informing them where the orgnaisation is doing good and where it needs improvement will strengthen their idea of giving true feedback. It also makes them hook to further developments curiously.
This particular exercise has helped us to validate the feedback more in detail by diving deep into the data. It was surprising to know that some of the feedback received was because of the incorrect understanding of the measuring scale we have used in the survey. This step has also helped to prioritise the pain points to set an action plan.
6. Action plan
After analyzing the data in detail, preparing the action plan to address the pain points with clear timelines and responsibilities is essential. It needs discussion with concerned stakeholders and top management. There may be a number of concerns, organisations may not able to address all of them together. Hence priortising actions based on the need is important. For example, Any safety-related action point must take the first priority. Further communicating the action plan with all employees helps to strengthen their trust. Before that, all the required approvals must have been sought.
7. Actioning the Action plan.
This is a very crucial stage that makes or breaks the trust. If the organization fails to act on the actions agreed irrespective any reason loses its image. In fact, not actioning increases disengagement more. Hence keeping up the commitment by actioning on the agreed pain points is an important step in converting the disengaged workforce to engaged.
8. Communicating the actions taken:
Though the formal communication would have been sent on the changes from time to time, closing the loop by summarising the actions taken and thanking them again for their support would leave a strong impression about the whole process. This also gives us the solid moral strength to go back to them for the next survey. No doubt that your sincere efforts will get you a much better score in the upcoming survey and you will be surprised to see steep down % in the disengaged workforce.
As mentioned in the beginning these steps and methods have been tested and proven by me and my team. But it is essential to get the cross-functional managers and leadership team support to make this happen. Some organisations would have the challenge of budget to get the external company for the survey, such organisations can also do it without much of investment by using Survey Monkey or Google forms.
Dr. William Kahn, Marshal Goldsmith, Youtube, Google