Source from:
April 2018 Special Issue 2 Business SCAN

Employee engagement is a barometer that illustrates the relationship between the employee and the organisation. It embraces all the factors that influence the extent to which employees are committed to organisational goals, mission and vision, and can have a significant impact on organisational performance. This Hot Topic explores how to manage, measure and strengthen employee engagement.

Leadership for Engagement

Employee engagement is often seen as the cornerstone of high-performing organisations.

This is backed up by research that suggests that positive employee perceptions of management and engagement practices are linked to increased job satisfaction, organisational commitment, and reduced turnover intentions.

Yet, in Gallup’s recent global workforce engagement survey, the results show that only 15% of the global workforce are actively engaged. This means that 85% of the global workforce is disengaged. According to the survey, the big group of disengaged employees can more or less be broken down into two groups: (1) those passively resisting change (67%) sometimes called “going through the motions” of working purposely, or (2) those actively disengaged (18%) by choosing to wait to be told what to do, and how to do it.

Across industries, the majority of companies fail to achieve meaningful returns on their engagement efforts. All too often, companies apply a “cookie cutter” approach because leaders (wrongly) assume that people possess the same universal needs, beliefs and values. This is called the “false-consensus bias”. According to Dr Wilson Wong, CIPD, “Engagement of an individual depends on what is salient at the time for that person. Individual differences, circumstances… and personal needs vary enormously”.

Use two key principles to overcome these variations and strengthen engagement:

  • Engage your people in meaningful dialogues to really get to know them: Leaders need to identify the specific values that drive the people who report to them. Start by creating a list of simple values and then use interviews or focus groups to ask employees which of these are most important to them as individuals. This will require conscious effort – but leaders will quickly learn a lot about their people and how best to support and reward them as individuals.
  • Leverage people’s strengths: Use the information you collect to create a couple of development goals for each person in order to bridge the gap between their personal values and the organisational culture. For example, if a person values risk-taking but the organisation values stability, task him or her with exploring and evaluating new technologies that can be used to enhance internal stability, e.g. social networking tools.

Sources: Baumgartner, N. (2014) One Engagement Strategy Does Not Fit All, HBR, Nov 26; Fuller, R. (2014) A Primer on Measuring Employee Engagement, HBR, Nov 17; Sarkar, S. (2011) A study on Employee Engagement at manufacturing Industries. Global Management Review, Vol.5(3), pp. 62–72; Waber, B. (2013) People Analytics: How Social Sensing Technology Will Transform Business and What It Tells Us about the New World of Work, Pearson, New Jersey; Wong, W. (2012) Employee Engagement: Re-stating the Bleeding Obvious, Nov 28, CIPD.

Action Point

Reflect on the organisation’s engagement practices (at different levels). Are you and other managers applying a standard “cookie-cutter” approach across the organisation, or would you say you are truly engaging people at the individual and team levels?

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Techniques Referenced in this Hot Topic

Employee Engagement | Employee-centred Leadership Style | Empowering Employees

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This KnowledgeBrief Hot Topic is part of our monthly Business SCAN publication

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Leadership for Engagement
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