Employee engagement is a term used in business management that can be used to measure each employee’s attachment to their job and their following performance at work. Employee engagement is not the same as satisfaction, happiness or effort, although all these things may play a part in overall engagement levels.
Employee engagement is linked directly with operational performance, and understandably, most managers are keen to increase it. HR consulting agency, Towers Watson, conducted a study in 2011 reporting that highly engaged organisations increased their operating income by 19.2% in one year. Conversely, the income of companies with low employee engagement declined by 32.7%. Engaged work forces also benefit from reduced staff turnover, increased sales and employees take less sick days on average.
The background behind the employee engagement principle
A couple of generations ago, anyone attaining employment in a large organisation would often expect to work for them for the entire length of their career. Employees were expected to be loyal to the organisation and in return for this loyalty, they were rewarded with a series of promotions and lifetime employment.
However, in the 1980s, large corporations started looking outside the UK for their workforce requirements and moved many production units overseas to countries with lower wages, in a bid to improve profits. Redundancies became common and loyalty was no longer the key to long-term employment. The era of a job for life was over.
These days new university graduates do not expect to stay with the same company for their whole career, rather they plan to use each position as a stepping stone to the next. The average person in the UK is said to hold between 10 and 14 different jobs in their lifetime.
Employees facing the threat of redundancy are reluctant to put their trust in the company and even to put in 100% effort at work. This limits productivity and results in an attitude of “every man for himself”.
Employee engagement: a solution to workplace disharmony
Employee engagement was devised to solve this problem. The idea behind the concept is that engaged employees are more productive, less likely to leave the company and the business is more profitable as a result.
Employee engagement may be a relatively new term but the concepts have been around for a long time. The US Army used the concept of actively engaging soldiers during World War II as a method of improving morale and increasing unity.
As interest in employee engagement has grown over the years, the methods of measuring engagement have also become more sophisticated. In the next article we discuss engagement surveys and their function in the modern workplace (link to evolution of engagement surveys article)
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