A happy and engaged employee makes good business sense. Engaged employees are more willing to go the extra mile, they are loyal and less likely to leave, and their glowing testimonies can go a long way to helping firms attract the best talent.

According to a Gallup survey, engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity and 41% less absenteeism. However, actively disengaged employees (24%) outnumber engaged employees (13%) by nearly 2-to-1.

While attention is given to this issue, it may not be enough. It’s doubtful whether the annual engagement survey, for instance, really helps engender real engagement. For one thing, it may only give a snapshot of what employees think in that moment rather than giving a realistic insight into how engaged and happy they really are.

HR professionals are particularly well-positioned to effect positive change in this growing area of importance. Not only can they raise engagement levels as a critical management issue but support partners to understand some of the simple ways they can improve engagement in their own teams. The following highlights just a few approaches for firms to consider.

Measuring tools

 

Real-time engagement surveys are gaining traction across a number of sectors. They gather continuous feedback rather than having to wait for the typical annual one. This allows businesses to take action before the problem escalates and may enable firms to identify a particular incident or activity that is causing bad feeling. The trick here is to ensure that organisations don’t overwhelm staff with continual questioning.

More novel ideas include emotion monitoring devices where an employee touches an icon on an app to indicate whether they are feeling happy, sad or angry. This may have something of a Big Brother feel to it – but in our ‘always on’ culture, trends like this are worth watching.

The point is that measuring sentiment can be an important means to understanding where a firm is disconnected from the employee experience – helping to put in processes that could radically improve both talent attraction and retention.

Management training

 

The most important step to improving engagement, however, is to strengthen management skills in this area (the Gallup research also noted that managers are key in engaging their teams, and yet few are taught how). Sometimes this can be as simple as encouraging managers to publicly praise work that has had a meaningful impact on the business. Recognition is a particularly powerful motivator.

Legal Week made a similar finding in last year’s survey into employee satisfaction. One of the top priorities respondents cited was feeling valued, alongside career development prospects, quality of work and salary.

Other important aspects of good engagement include recognising the different skills within the team, creating opportunities for individuals to develop strengths and conveying to teams that managers, and the wider firm, support employee interests and will address concerns honestly and as quickly as reasonable. HR teams play a key role in setting behavioural expectations and establishing processes that enable these things to happen throughout the business.

Employee engagement needs to be driven up the agenda, especially with the rise of millennials into the workforce who see engagement as a given. The HR team is the obvious place to head up such initiatives – but as ever, success will depend on engagement becoming a firm-wide priority.

 

 

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