Before you read this blog – you should probably understand what employee engagement is and why it’s so important. If you haven’t already, read our part one blog here.
As mentioned before, employee engagement is vital to the success of any business. Many companies invest a great deal in their staff and human capital because they fundamentally believe that having talented staff gives you the competitive edge you need to come out on top in the market.
Engaged employees produce optimal work and are keen on delivering the services and products of your company. They fundamentally believe in the company’s message and go above and beyond in their work. The lower turnover alone is enough to justify investing in employee engagement. Think about it like this- if you’re hiring less, you’re spending less time and money trying to source talented human capital.
As a small to medium-sized business owner, your time is immensely valuable for growth. Spending less time trying weed out the people who are not a good fit for your company is grandly rewarding because it allows you to focus on your company’s objectives.
So after working now that you understand what drives people to feel motivated from our last blog, let’s talk about the drivers of employee engagement that you can take advantage of to increase engagement within your company.
Drivers of Employee Engagement
Leadership is about influencing, motivating and enabling others to contribute towards the success of the organization and good leadership can empower employee. This doesn’t just end at the owner's; this needs to be reflected in your supervisors, managers or anybody that holds authority within your business. Research has shown that leaders who are change-oriented (rather than task-oriented and we will get into these definitions later) have the strongest impact on employee engagement.
Task-oriented style of leadership means that the leader is entirely focused on the production and delivery of the service and or products. They are concerned with the meeting of objectives, are direct and focused on achieving a certain performance standard. Change-oriented leaders actively promote exploration of new or better ways of doing something. Unlike task oriented leaders who are usually focused on the status quo and performing how and what they know, change-oriented aims encourage brainstorming, creativity and innovative ways of accomplishing the same objectives.
This leads into our talk about transformational leadership, which is a leadership style that views leaders as change agents, and thus are change-oriented rather thank task-oriented Transformational leaders can create, and communicate a vision for the organization that encourages their followers to strive for that vision. This strategic vision is based on values that are recognized and identified by not just the higher ups but also the staff; the vision is purposeful.
It takes a strong vision filled with purpose that is championed by a leader and aligned with employees values for engagement to occur.
How do you do this for your organization? Think about what you are currently focused on within your work environment. Are you strict and demanding and focused on the status quo? Or are you tolerant of mistakes and encouraging of innovation?
2) Organizational Culture
When I talk about organizational culture, I am talking about values and vision held by the organization. A strong culture means that these organizational values are aligned with all members of the organization. These values can manifest in the way members communicate with each other, how they communicate, and the language they use. It can manifest in the stories and rituals that the business circulates and upholds, and even manifest as tangible items within the physical space such as art, and equipment. The culture of a business can directly impact the engagement of the business's employees.
An organizational culture that is supportive and participative is going to encourage employee engagement a lot more than an organizational culture that is rooted in bureaucracy, and competitiveness.
Let’s revisit the four drives theory again – particularly the drive to defend. If during performance reviews, managers are only indicating where an employee was lacking, the employee will most likely feel attacked. This triggers the drive to defend, which isn’t a drive that we want to appeal to. An organizational culture that is rooted in support and communication have managers who provide constant feedback via check-ins, and surveys and guide the employees on the right track rather than pointing out their flaws. This not only encourages their drive to achieve, but employees feel more engaged in their work and are motivated to perform.
We can also link organizational culture to the drive to bond. If we can establish a culture that is supportive of social relationships, and promote opportunities for social connection, we can appeal to employees drive to bond. Social bonds are extremely important for employee engagement because when employees feel like they belong, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in the work that they are doing.
Finally, an adaptive culture that is open to change, growth and learning, not only contributes to employee engagement by appealing to the drive to learn but also has been shown to increase organizational effectiveness in general. People need a meaningful work environment, and when this is reflected in the organizational culture, employees become more engaged.
3) Recognition and rewards
Last but not least, I’m going to talk about how important recognition and rewards are. It is not only naïve but foolish if you believe that people are only working because they fundamentally enjoy their job and compensation should not play a part in their motivation. The fact is, monetary compensation is a huge driver of motivation, and so are other types of rewards.
To understand employee engagement effectively, we need to understand the drivers of employee engagement and rewards and recognition are considered a key factor in enhancing employee engagement because they provide direct incentives to work.
A study conducted by Belgio in 2018 showed this direct positive relationship between rewards and recognition and employee. However, it doesn’t always have to be monetary rewards that drive employee engagement. Non-monetary rewards such as recognition have a significant positive impact on team engagement.
Rewards and recognition are actions that directly show the appreciation an organization has for that employee. Rewards are important reinforcements, especially if you want to see the same behaviors that contribute to performance reoccurring. To make sure that your rewards or recognition programs are effective you must link these rewards to performance and ensure that the reward itself is relevant.
This relates back to the Expectancy Theory – where people are driven by knowing that their efforts are leading to desired performance and that their performance is driving the outcomes that they want.
It doesn’t just stop there either; the type of reward is very important too. You need to understand what your employees are looking for, what their desired outcome is and what they value to create good rewards and recognition system. This ties back into the third component of the expectancy theory – Outcome Valence. Is the reward you are offering even desirable to your employees?
TLDR: Now you’re fully equipped with the tools needed to drive employee engagement. Let’s summarize it all.
1) You should be a change-oriented leader, and encourage your managers to be the same. Have protocols and procedures that allow this to happen. Invest some time in brainstorming the different ways you can support innovation with this mindset. When you have a strong strategic vision that aligns with your staffs’ values, you are more likely to engage your human capital.
2) Culture is VITAL to the company’s survival, and the best type of culture is one that’s adaptive and always on its toes. Design some systems within your business that will support this type of culture. Think about the way you conduct your performance reviews, are they encouraging of future gains or are they limited to assessments?
3) Everybody loves to be recognized, and psychology has shown that recognition is the best way to reinforce a behavior. However not any reward is a good reward. When you start your recognition program planning make sure you’re consulting your staff to know what they will like.
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