Employee Engagement has become a buzzword recently in the business landscape due to the increasing amount of content and discussion being published about it. Known as the combination of both cognitive and emotional motivation that fuels an employee for work-related goals – employee engagement is a hot topic for a lot of companies including Telus Corp., a large Canadian Organization that prides its employee engagement on the result of its internal culture development.
While there is no one definition of employee engagement, a lot of sources agree that employee engagement involves the motivation, drive, positive attitudes and behaviors that come with achieving a high job performance.
Dr. John Storey who is a professor of Management and Marketing at the University of St. Thomas in Houston describes employee engagement as “A set of positive attitudes and behaviors enabling high job performance of a kind which are in tune with the organization’s mission.”
Darren Enwistle, the president and CEO of TELUS since 2000, believes that the people and the culture of Telus are the most important assets of the company. To show this, Telus has not only invested over a quarter billion dollars in training and development for its people, but they’ve also offered flexible work, empowered staff with autonomy and have implemented a good recognition system all in the hopes to increase employee engagement within their company.
“This continuing investment in our employees is one of the reasons we are getting such fantastic results at the engagement level,” Darren Enwistle, president, and CEO of Telus.
The days of a traditional industrial workplace where people come in, do their work, collect their compensation and leave are over. There is a reason why organizations throughout the world such as Telus Corp. have invested in resources to boost employee engagement.
In this blog, we will be going over the what and the why of employee engagement starting with what is employee engagement and what does it look like, followed by why employee engagement is so important and the theories of motivation behind it.
What does Employee Engagement look like? (And what does it not look like)
It’s not surprising that businesses and organizations function best when they make their employees potential central to the business’s operation because employee engagement strategies enable people to perform the best work they can, and this can only happen when employees feel respected, involved and valued.
So what does employee engagement look like? Employees who are engaged feel like they truly belong in the organization. They have a clear understanding of their role and believe that their work is impactful. Employees feel confident that their voice is being heard and that they are more than just another worker within a conglomerate. They believe in the values and goals of the organization, are empowered to perform and are motivated to achieve.
If this isn’t enough to convince you why employee engagement is important, employee engagement has been identified as a critical driver of organizational performance. Practices that generate a high level of employee motivation or employee engagement has been shown to not only improve work performance but increase their overall productivity through increasing employee retention, customer service, business loyalty and decreasing absenteeism.
When employees are engaged they perform better
Increased employee retention
• Employees are 87% less likely to leave than disengaged employees (saving you hiring costs!)
• Engaged employees are less likely to call in sick, and take an average of 2.69 sick days a year compared with 6.19 days for disengaged employees.
Engaged employees have better customer service,
• Happy employees translate to happier customer service
Increase business growth
• Engaged employees values and goals are aligned with the business values goals, helping the business to grow!
In fact, a report by the UK government indicated that employee engagement was so important to the country’s international competitiveness that government should support employee engagement practices throughout all sectors of the economy.
Yet despite the growing amount of evidence supporting how critical employee engagement is, a 2012 Global Workforce Study found that 65% of the more than 32,000 full-time workers that were participating in the study were not engaged.
Before we can get into the drivers of employee engagement, we have to understand how and why employees are engaged or motivated in the first place by taking a look at two theories: The Four-Drive Theory, and the expectancy theory of motivation. While there are several theories of motivation, these are the two main ones that we will be focusing on.
Four Drive Theory of Motivation
When we understand what drives a person’s behavior, we can better design systems, policies, procedures and practices in order to engage our employees and, according to Schaufenbaul, K. (2015), the Four Drive, a blend of motivation theory with neuroscience that determines the four fundamental patterns of human behavior, is one of the best ways to understand why people do what they do.
Drive to acquire is our need to seek, obtain and retain objects, experiences, anything in pursuit of gratification. To put this in a work setting – it is the desire for employees to move up in position, to gain bonuses or rewards.
Drive to defend is the only drive that is reactive rather than proactive, meaning people are only driven to defense once they are triggered i.e. when you feel threatened. In an organization, this can occur during layoffs, where productivity and morale are seen to decrease in your employees.
Drive to bond plays on the fact that humans are social creatures. This drive motivates you to meet like-minded people, to cooperate and to collaborate. The need to form social relationships.
Drive to learn states that we have a natural desire to understand and make sense of the world and this occurs through active learning. This explains that when we place a person in an extremely specialized and repetitive position, they can become bored quickly which affects productivity. There is nothing to appeal to this person’s drive to learn once all the tasks are mastered.
Schaufenbaul, K. (2015), says that we need to think holistically when we want to use this theory to improve our organization. Organizations that are most effective in improving employee motivation and engagement focus on meeting all four drives simultaneously rather than just focusing on one or two. It’s also worth noting that the drive to bond has the most effect on employee commitment.
Expectancy Theory of Motivation
The second motivational theory I would like to focus on is the expectancy theory. This theory states that people will put effort into behaviours they believe will produce the most desired outcomes. There are three components to this theory and all three have a direct influence on an employee’s motivation.
Effort to performance expectancy: this describes an employee’s perception that their efforts will result in a particular level of performance. For example, if I think that no matter how much effort I put in, the desired performance will never be achieved, I will start losing motivation to do my job. I won’t be as engaged in the work that I am doing.
Performance to outcome expectancy: this describes the probability that performance will even lead to the outcomes. For example, if a manager promises a bonus when a level of performance is met and does not end up delivering, the performance to outcome expectancy decreases, meaning the employee does not believe that their performance will provide them with the rewards or outcomes that they want. This has an effect on engagement and motivation.
Outcome Valences: this is just a fancy way to describe how someone feels towards a specific outcome. Are they happy with the outcome? Upset or neutral? This is important, because if the outcome isn’t something the employee desires, where is the motivation in trying to achieve it in the first place. For example, buying a box of donuts to celebrate an employees 25 years with a company may not be the most appropriate. In order to make sure that the outcome makes sense and is valued, it’s best to consult with the employees in the first place.
Hopefully, you've learned a thing or two about employee engagement and the theories behind motivation. In our next blog, we will be going over the core driver of employee engagement and the actions you can take to make this happen within your business.
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