Taking a close look series
Contrary to popular belief, people need only a few things to become highly engaged employees: a sense of social responsibility and purpose and the right day-to-day employee benefits. Yet, unfortunately, not many companies have a successful grasp of the concept of employee engagement.
In fact, according to Gallup:
Human Resources departments are taking on the consequences of this as well. They’re drowning in paperwork from high turnover, low performance levels, increased healthcare costs, and more.
Companies forget that employee engagement and creating an engaged workforce truly come down to cause and effect. Payactiv has done extensive research on engagement and looks at how your business can benefit from improving employee engagement. Read on to learn how you can leverage the inner workings of high employee engagement, which will lead to high-performing employees.
An employee is engaged when they’re invested in the organization’s success. Employee engagement is measured by the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals. Not only does this increase on-the-job engagement in already-assigned tasks, but it also results in employees exhibiting discretionary effort to stay engaged at work.
This may seem like a no-brainer in the sense that a higher level of engagement is good for an organization. However, this positive impact is systemic, extending from immediate success such as improved customer satisfaction all the way to higher shareholder returns.
Its process looks something like this:
So, the value of having engaged employees shouldn’t be underestimated. Employee engagement is the ultimate business prerequisite. Without employee engagement, most companies face impending failure (at best, they’ll achieve mediocre results in the long term). Conversely, organizations with engaged employees perform superiorly, seeing higher net profit margins, retention rates, and net promoter scores (NPS). Essentially, it becomes a domino effect in business success, with employee engagement being the first domino to fall. Happy employees lead to a successful business.
If you’ve never heard of ‘positive psychology,’ here’s a brief overview:
Positive psychology is defined as “the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities, and organizations to thrive.” Driven by a humanistic perspective that focuses on happiness and well-being, much of positive psychology surrounds the fact that the happier you are, the more you thrive in all aspects of life.
In turn, (not surprisingly) organizations are increasingly interested in positive psychology’s role in the workplace and how they can leverage this concept to increase employee engagement.
However, this concept is solidified even further in the neurological realm.
Positive emotions lead to a rise in “feel-good chemicals” in the brain. Rises in these chemicals increase feelings of immediate happiness, but they also enhance learning. It improves the ability to think quickly, creatively, and look at things in new ways, enhancing problem-solving skills and retaining complex information. Experiencing positive engagement in the workplace isn’t only good for business, but it releases chemicals in the brain which allow for higher thinking capacity.
When employees are happy, they thrive. Consequently, so does their employer’s business. However, some underlying factors need to exist for employees to feel true engagement.
A Cone Communications study highlights the importance of knowing how to engage the “modern, enlightened employee.” Employees of today expect their employers to care about them as individuals, especially benefit-wise. They also expect opportunities to be of service, such as avenues to participate in volunteer programs or ways to help those in need, be it in-office or on their own time. Moreover, they’re interested in a company’s corporate responsibility (CR) efforts, assessing its contributions to society’s social and environmental well-being.
Employees need to feel connected to the organization’s missions, goals, and values. It’s about making an impact. What’s more, according to Deloitte, over 40% of Millenials and Gen Zs say that making a positive impact on the community and society is important to them. With purpose-driven jobs comes happier employees, which leads to high engagement.
Employers with great corporate responsibility but poor employee benefits still don’t make the cut. Employees can’t possess “corporate responsibility” if there’s a lack of benefits being offered to employees. Employees cannot connect or invest their full efforts in an organization’s mission if the organization isn’t invested in their well-being.
They’re unable to emotionally get behind a company that doesn’t support them with the relevant benefits. Furthermore, the 90 million American workers living with imminent financial stress and stress-related health issues struggle to stay engaged in even their personal tasks, let alone their organization’s missions and values. Maintaining their status quo trumps the need to go above and beyond for the company.
High employee engagement requires an honest appraisal of employee needs. To complete this task successfully, the employer must recruit unending compassion and sincerity within themselves to find the appropriate solutions and go the extra mile.
And for the employer with workers paid $25 per hour or less, offering a financial wellness benefit is non-negotiable. The mental distractions that come with financial stress disconnect an employee from their in-the-moment job responsibilities and the ability to connect to a company’s mission.
Businesses are normally worried about their needs. When they inquire what employees need, money is often a taboo, unspoken issue. This unaddressed topic of employee financial stress is plaguing the U.S. economy in most industries:
How can you use this information to improve employee engagement?
If employers offer a financial wellness benefit, employees are more capable of engaging in the workplace. Cultivating a connection and emotional investment in the company’s mission is truly attainable at this point, as the employer has shown their commitment to them in providing a real solution to their day-to-day financial wellness needs.
Some employee engagement strategies include:
Then—and only then—an employee can connect to the company’s higher mission. They can see clear as day that this employer isn’t only dedicated to contributing to society’s social and environmental well-being, but they’re also actively contributing to their health and wellness.
From there, the connection and trust have been made. This is where high engagement thrives.
Employees do need more than a financial wellness benefit. They need to feel like they’re making an impact and are contributing to society in a measurable way. Yet financial wellness for the employees making $25 per hour or less is the foundational measure to take. Corporate responsibility, workplace engagement, and trust and connection can then exist.
Four key types of workplace culture exist in businesses today.
In a clan culture, people interact in a relaxed, friendly, and positive manner. You’ll often find that employees have much in common beyond just their jobs – shared interests, personal values, and hobbies, for example. In clan cultures, leaders are respected rather than feared. People who work at such companies report high levels of collaboration, teamwork, and idea-sharing.
In organizations with adhocracy cultures, there’s a focus on innovation and winning in the marketplace. Life in these companies is fast-paced, and there’s seldom a “dull moment.” People are encouraged and even expected to try out new things, take calculated risks and experiment.
In organizations with market cultures, there’s a relentless focus on the customer, becoming the most successful player in the marketplace, and achieving consistently strong revenues and performance. There’s an expectation that people will unquestioningly do whatever is required to get the job done and meet tight deadlines.
As the name suggests, in hierarchy cultures, there’s a strong emphasis on structure and control. These organizations are meticulous about making rules and setting boundaries – and people are expected to abide by them without complaining or asking questions.
Some people find company culture to be an intangible and difficult-to-grasp concept, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be reviewed, measured, and improved upon.
The best place to start is by defining, documenting, and broadly communicating your company culture. Next, put in place some solid metrics to measure the success of your culture-building efforts. Here, be sure not to think of success as a static “score” but rather the convergence of multiple, relevant data points.
Ideally, use a combination of different metrics to assess the strength of your company culture, including the results of traditional employee engagement surveys and focus groups, retention/attrition metrics, and feedback gathered during exit interviews. Company intranets are useful to gauge the tone of communication within your organization and see how effective teams are in collaborating with one another.
In companies with a strong organizational culture, levels of employee engagement are high. People are productive and proactive. Perhaps most importantly, they’re meaningfully engaged with one another as human beings. In such organizations, it’s typical to observe the following behaviors:
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