Star Interview

Getting strategic at employee engagement


HR Grapevine explores three ways that HR leaders can boost employee engagement levels in the workplace…

Words by Sophie Parrott | Design by Lucy Bick

HR practitioners worth their salt will be savvy to the business benefits of maintaining high levels of employee engagement in the workplace for the positives it can bring to the business: such as increased productivity, better morale and increased financial return. In fact, data from Dale Carnegie found that organisations with high employee engagement outperform those with low levels of engagement by a staggering 202% – highlighting the importance of keeping staff members engaged to drive better performance-related outcomes.

Yet, despite the clear business benefits of having an engaged workforce, separate research has suggested that vast improvement needs to be made in this area. A recent Qualtrics Employee Pulse survey found that UK workers are some of the least engaged in the world. This can damage any organisation. Separately, Gallup found that disengaged employees cost the UK between £52-£70billion per year in lost productivity – which could have a hugely negative knock-on effect on commercial success if left unmanaged.

It being clear that engagement should still top the HR agenda – with benefits for companies who make it a central part of their business blueprint - how should the function go about being strategic at keeping employees engaged? HR Grapevine explores three ways that HR leaders could achieve this.

Read on to find out more.

Continuous reward

It may sound simple but ensuring that people are recognised and rewarded for their hard efforts in the workplace can really help to drive employee engagement levels up. This dovetails with research from Bersin by Deloitte which found that organisations where recognition regularly occurs have 14% better employee engagement, productivity and customer service than those without. If employees see colleagues being recognised and rewarded for their efforts, this could motivate others to do the same.

Despite this, research published by Office Vibe found that 63% of employees feel like they don’t get enough praise, suggesting that employers and HR departments could do more. Yet, there are some organisations that appear to be leading the way in this space. For example, in an interview with HR Grapevine before Christmas 2020, Linda Mountford, HR Director at John West said that the firm believes in “continuous recognition rather than one-off rewards at the end of the year”.

 

While, of course, like other organisations, the canned fish brand carried out festive celebrations virtually in light of the pandemic, they were also looking to the year ahead and considering how to recognise staff going forwards. “We are also looking ahead to [2021], and the possibility of utilising the summer period to further recognise our crew and strengthen engagement,” she previously explained. With data from Reward Gateway finding that 80% of UK employees want continuous recognition throughout the year, it is possible that this could have a hugely positive impact on employee engagement.

Getting feedback from employees through surveys

To keep levels of employee engagement high, it is important that employers and HR regularly get feedback from workers with a view to improve the workplace going forwards, whether this is in terms of culture, wellbeing or engagement. One way of doing this is through employee surveys which can provide employers with insights on what employees want and need from their organisation. Asking staff to fill in surveys will also give them the opportunity to have their voices heard. This notion dovetails with research from Salesforce – as was reported by Inc – which found that when an employee feels heard in the workplace, that individual is 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform to the best of their abilities, which can help positively influence commercial success for organisations too.

While companies may regularly survey staff, it is crucial that they effectively use the feedback from these surveys to inspire positive change. Despite this, data published in LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 report, one in three firms don’t regularly act on employee feedback, suggesting that they aren’t making full use of survey data. In a previous interview with HR Grapevine, Cat Moseley, HR Director at Motorpoint, said that so many times surveys are completed but not shared or acted upon and this can be worse than not doing them at all.

She explained: “If your teams take the time to give you their feedback you must share the results and you must say what the impact of their feedback will be.” In addition to this, Motorpoint’s HR lead said that if engagement surveys are powerful and if done properly, HR teams and line managers can get “accurate insight into how best to win the hearts and minds of your teams”, stating that there is a correlation with this and productivity. “We see a very clear trend linking our high levels of engagement to high NPS and profit,” Moseley added.

 

Investing in training

Investing in an employee’s career development and offering training programmes is another way that HR functions can improve strategic employee engagement in the workplace. Not only is this something that employees say that they want – research published in Udemy’s Workplace Boredom Study found that 80% of staff said greater L&D opportunities would help them feel more engaged at work – but it can have positive benefits for the business too. For example, the Association for Talent Development (ATD), as was reported by Shifte Learning, explained that organisations offering comprehensive training have 218% higher income per worker than those without formal company training. In addition to this, companies can also benefit from a 24% higher profit margin than those who invest less money and resources into staff training.

Not only could investing in employees be beneficial from an engagement perspective – because firms are taking the time to invest in staff and this is viewed positively by staff – but it can positively impact an organisation’s bottom line.


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