Employee Engagement

Book Review“Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance and Increasing Loyalty” begins with a strong message about the importance of the employee-employer relationship. In today’s economy, there are many qualified employees, yet keeping them on board is challenging because: Employees do not feel engaged; they do not trust in their organizations; they feel less respected, and therefore, seek out other employment.

In his first chapter author Brad Federman defines employee engagement as: “The degree to which a person commits to an organization and the impact that commitment has on how profoundly they perform and their length of tenure.”

Federman goes on to explain that engagement is a continuum, not an on and off switch. He writes that success occurs when employees continue to move along the continuum.

Commitment is based on engagement and accountability; the more committed and engaged, the more accountable employees are and the more likely the relationship between employee and employer will grow stronger and last longer.

The Effect of Pace, Schedule and Technology on Employee Engagement

Research suggests that companies cannot provide the necessary skill training and support to avoid losing employees as a result of increased workplace stress and anxiety. The following realities have made a great impact on lower employee engagement.

  • With advancements in technology, businesses rely on technology to process information at a rate faster than workers can produce, thus reducing and sometimes eliminating employee positions.
  • Market globalization and shipping jobs overseas have increased competition.
  • Global marketization has led to a 24/7 operation schedule.

Hyper-connected Communication

Unfortunately, instead of fostering a communal work environment, a high demand multi-tasking work culture leads to employee isolation through increased use of text messages and emailing rather than face-to-face interactions.

Employees believe remote communication is more efficient and productive. However, the lack of human contact has led to a transient work population.

Federman writes that high-quality human relationships that are based on trust prove to be more successful.  Organizations that are consultative, collaborative and supportive succeed, where companies that are transactional, efficient and superficial are struggling.  “Productivity relates to how connected each employee is to the mission of the organization.  Productivity is also about driving the business forward, taking educated risks, and being resourceful.”

According to a Performancepoint survey, “Only 62 percent of employees say they are regularly creative and resourceful, and only 38 percent say they are going to stick around in their current workplace.”

Drivers of Profitability

The author makes an important point that businesses are driven by financials; however, financials are a picture of the past.  Conversely, businesses often succeed because employees are motivated to meet customer needs, not because of financial targets.

Too often management decisions are made to achieve fiscal stability and increase profits.  Executives forget that the high levels of cohesiveness among the employees are how companies achieve favorable financial results.

Employee Engagement Research

Federman points out that employee engagement literature often is based on flawed research.  Because of poor survey design, focusing on one organization in detail rather than a breadth of organizations, and impartial parties conducting research, the data is skewed and of little value.

Federman’s compilation of sound research shows that drivers of employee engagement include:

  • culture
  • success
  • indicators
  • priority setting
  • communication
  • innovation
  • talent acquisition
  • talent enhancement
  • customer/business cycles
  • incentives and acknowledgment

Two types of engagement factors

Core factors reflect the idea that the managers give their employees the necessary resources to be successful.

Enriching factors are motivational and value driven.

It is necessary for companies to choose which factors have the most impact on their business.  In order to do so effectively, Federman suggests either connecting the engagement factors to outcome indicators such as revenue, profitability, productivity, and turnover, or conducting a validation study to determine the impact.

The Art and Science of Leadership for Change

In order for executives to implement change for increased employee engagement, they must collaborate with their lower employees; however, research shows that most executives use controlling and parental communication techniques.  This leads to lack of trust between senior leadership and their employees.

Federman shows that there is an art and a science to leadership that cannot be learned overnight.  In order to create a culture of leadership development in an organization, three key skills must be identified and honed:

  • problem-solving skills,
  • leadership and people skills, and
  • business acumen.

“The challenge of assuming leadership can be one of the most detrimental challenges an organization faces.”  Studies show that new leaders can fail up to 50 percent of the time.  Some causes of the failures include filling leadership roles with unqualified candidates and promoting associates based on the job they are currently doing rather than the job into which they would be moving.  In order to support new managers, organizations must outline leadership expectations and plan accordingly.

Federman concludes by outlining that employee engagement is both a process and a strategy.

Companies flourish when leaders stay focused on what matters to their distinct business and when they invest in the proper resources and training techniques for their employees.

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