Employee engagement is one of the most frequently talked about topics in organizational development, but it is also one of the hardest goals to truly accomplish. According to Gallup research, only 13 percent of the global workforce is currently engaged. However, employee engagement doesn’t have to be an elusive goal reserved for a select few. When it comes to achieving healthy employee engagement, four top organizational environment factors influence the engagement of any workforce. Success in employee engagement primarily hinges on the strength of your culture, the contribution of teams, the impact of leadership, and the power of the individual.
The Strength of Company Culture
Culture is defined by what employees do in good times and stressful times, how employees react to change, and how individuals treat each other and their customers. A strong culture is characterized by employees who are highly engaged and produce what’s referred to as “discretionary effort”—effort beyond the minimal requirement. Highly engaged individuals go beyond what’s required and give all that is possible because of their high levels of motivation and dedication to their work and the company. A strong culture encourages individuals to give a high level of discretionary effort. Some of the specific traits of a strong company culture include:
Clarity – leaders clearly express expectations, and individuals and teams communicate directly and honesty.
Consistency – people and teams are aligned and understand roles and responsibilities; everyone understands the value and benefit of giving their full effort.
Celebration – routine celebrations of the culture reinforce its positive aspects and help people understand priorities and behavior expectations.
The Impact of Leadership
Leaders impact employee engagement by helping employees understand and perform to expectations. Most people don’t automatically know what’s required to be successful, so they rely on strong leaders to provide coaching, honest feedback, and the support needed to reach their potential. Strong leaders set a clear direction during times of uncertainty and change, inspire employees to give their best, and support individual career growth and development. Through their own example, leaders also demonstrate accountability, clear communication, and ways to support company culture effectively. With strong leaders, people don’t have to guess what’s required; they can follow leaders who show by their own example what performance excellence looks like.
The Contribution of Teams
A cohesive, functional team supports healthy employee engagement far more than a team where individuals are disconnected or don’t communicate well. In fact, one study found that one of the top contributors to poor employee engagement was a sense among employees that they were disconnected from their peers. Conversely, a well-connected team that values everyone’s contributions and talents is more likely to be an engaged and productive one. When teams collaborate, share resources, and communicate with clarity and frequency, everyone has the chance to offer their skills, energy, and ideas to the broader team and organization.
The Value of the Individual
People are more likely to be engaged when they feel their efforts are recognized and appreciated, and when they feel they’re in the best possible position to perform to their potential. No one wants to feel like a number or that what they do doesn’t matter. Instead, people want to feel their contributions are valued and that they have a voice and are empowered to make improvements and support company strategy. Organizations with highly engaged employees value individuals not only for their contributions and ideas, but also for their potential to help the company grow well into the future.
Improving employee engagement requires a deliberate examination of your company culture, leadership, and talent management programs to determine which actions to take to achieve the greatest possible impact. Building engagement isn’t an overnight fix. It often requires a focus on leadership development, and possibly even a culture transformation, to ensure you have the optimal environment in which employees can perform at their best.