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Employee Engagement is the New Black

How many times in the past month have you talked about employee engagement? I remember when I started in HR (before joining XONEX I was in HR at Maersk for more than 20 years) and the buzzword was employee satisfaction. But now everyone is talking about engagement. Sure, we need our employees to be satisfied. That’s a given. But, are they engaged? How engaged are they? Can we measure this engagement? These are just a few of the conversations I’ve had recently. Indeed, employee engagement is the new black.

But, what does it mean? Why is it important? While I may sigh from time to time about how often I hear the word engagement these days, I must admit that I’ve jumped on the bandwagon. I believe in being engaged. As an employee, it feels good to be connected to my work. As HR management, it feels even better to see talent humming along, seemingly happy in their work and, consequently, more productive than ever.

And it’s not just me. Studies have showed that when employees are fully engaged, they are more productive, committed and conscientious, which has a direct impact on the business’ bottom line. Engaged employees not only plan to stick around; they are enthused and motivated allies whose energy and effort can help your organization thrive during good times and survive during difficult times.

But, achieving high rates of employee engagement can feel a bit like trying to catch a unicorn. Keeping employees motivated isn’t easy.  The lack of coordination, cooperation and communication among employees and management, as well as improper training, are just a few of the many factors that can disrupt organizational bliss (read: effectiveness).

Before we start chasing this workplace utopia, we need to understand what engagement means and the key reasons why employees are either engaged or disengaged. Recently, the Conference Board published Employee Engagement, A Review of Current Research and Its Implications, which I found to be very helpful. In the paper, the Conference Board analyzed twelve major studies on employee engagement that had been published over the past few years and drilled down on all the data.

They came up with a blended definition for employee engagement:

“A heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work.”

Then, they highlighted common themes that appeared across all of the studies in order to hone in on key drivers of engagement:

  1. Trust and integrity – How well managers communicate and ‘walk the talk’?
  2. Nature of the job –Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?
  3. Line of sight between employee performance and company performance – Does the employee understand how their work contributes to the company’s performance?
  4. Career growth opportunities –Are there future opportunities for growth?
  5. Pride about the company – How much self-esteem does the employee feel by being associated with their company?
  6. Coworkers/team members – significantly influence one’s level of engagement
  7. Employee development – Is the company making an effort to develop the employee’s skills?
  8. Relationship with one’s manager – Does the employee value his or her relationship with his or her manager?

Personally, I found this list to be an amazing assessment tool for measuring employee engagement. I think it’s also a good roadmap for implementation.

I’m just scratching the surface here, but this is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. As I continue to write for XONEX, I will revisit the issue of engagement often – especially as it pertains to relocations and international assignments.

What do you think employee engagement? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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VP, Client Services

VP of Business Development Northeast Region


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