Leadership: a Key to Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a concept that is generally viewed as managing discretionary effort, that is, when employees have choices, they will act in a way that furthers their organization’s interests. An engaged employee is a person who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work. This concept has gained widespread recognition and credibility management practice in the last few years. The Institute of Employment Studies (SEES) defines employee engagement as “a positive attitude by employees towards an organization and TTS values”.

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The engaged employee clearly understands the business context of a company and works well with colleagues to improve general performance of his organization. Employee engagement is, therefore, a measurement of emotional and intellectual commitment to an organization and this has a direct link to productivity. It is a step-up from commitment and overlaps with both commitment and a positive psychological contract between employer and employee. This article emphasizes the need of employee engagement and examines the role of leadership in involving as a key to employee engagement for corporate success.

This paper also evaluates the different ways how a leader can improve employee engagement. * Assistant Professor, Department of Business Management, Post Graduate Centre, Road, Wrangle – 506007. India. [email protected] Com Need of Employee Engagement Ala Buddha College, S. P E- Mail: – Most organizations today realism that a ‘satisfied’ employee is not necessarily the ‘best’ employee in terms of loyalty and productivity. It is only an ‘engaged employee’ who is intellectually and emotionally bound with the organization, feels passionately about its goals and is committed towards its values who can e termed thus.

He goes the extra mile beyond the basic job responsibility and is associated with the actions that drive the business. Moreover, in times of diminishing loyalty, employee engagement is a powerful retention strategy. The fact that it has a strong impact on the bottom line adds to its significance. Engagement is about motivating employees to do their best. An engaged employee gives his company his 100 percent efforts. This is what makes the difference in an industry where the most valuable resource of a company walks out of the door every evening.

This is of particular importance in a knowledge industry. The quality of output and competitive advantage of a company depend on the quality of its people. It has been proved that there is an intrinsic link between employee engagement, customer loyalty, and profitability. When employees are effectively and positively engaged with their organization, they form an emotional connection with the company. This impacts their attitude towards the company’s clients, and thereby improves customer satisfaction and service levels.

The successful employee engagement helps create a community at the workplace and not just a workforce. It’s a win-win situation. Highly engaged employees strongly identify themselves with their company’s success and gain fulfillment from making a contribution. They are eager to expend discretionary effort, increasing their productivity and performance; this, in turn, significantly improves business results. They act as advocates for the company’s products or services, positively influencing the attitudes of customers. And they take pride in their company and recommend it as a great place to work.

It is helpful to think of employee engagement in terms of measurable strategic outcomes or goals a particular company is striving to achieve. Leadership Key to Employee Engagement Leaders around the business world are under pressure for results. Everyone around them is demanding “better, faster and cheaper”. And as leaders turn to their employees, they find that loyalty has been replaced by a free market where employees perform on conditional basis (am I acknowledged, what do I know, will I be rewarded, is it worth it) rather than as a matter of course.

Everyday these employees make the choice to either engage or not engage their Allen’s in serving customers and the organization. Yet, many organizations regard employees as interchangeable units of cost. The challenge is to switch these employees on by informing and motivating, and many in management are not up to it. The jury is not out on the question of the power of engagement of employees. The employee engagement creates more sales, more market value and higher return on capital. Moreover, it shows reduced absenteeism, fewer accidents, greater customer loyalty and retention.

These are all direct drivers of profit and success of corporate. The Gallup Organization, over t least two decades of research in the USA, has found that as many as 69 percent of employees are “not engaged”, that only 16 percent are engaged. The latter group drives organizational success. The vast majority that falls in the former category drags the performance down. This sends a signal to the rest of the world, including India: check the motivation of your people and do more to switch them on (engagement).

The good news is that most people see their workplace as full of potential; they want to learn and make a worthwhile contribution. They also want recognition for the same. Most importantly, people ant face-to-face communication, so that they can better understand their place in the organization. Who is going to provide the drive for more and more employees to switch to be engaged? How do you motivate people to make the right decisions for customers and the organization, and how do you unlock the discretionary effort that the “not engaged” might withhold?

We have real trouble with this, where some seek charismatic leaders at the top while others pursue teamwork or “let’s restructure” as a way to switch people on. We know from research in a variety of companies exactly what are the communication needs f employees; things like timely and accurate information, feedback, real communication, coaching, a feeling of being valued, understanding of the business and real human contact. And if you think about how employees move to greater loyalty and engagement, it is typically a shift from the personal (l) to a sense of team (We).

Leaders at all levels are obviously the critical link, rather than just the one at the top. “Leaders” include managers, supervisors and team leaders. In the day-to-day schedule of the workplace, they are the ones who win or lose discretionary effort and engagement. Unfortunately, in the US and many countries such as India, most of these leaders, despite their best efforts, have never been trained in communication and have little understanding of it. We all pay lip service to how “vital” communication is; but more often than not, among business leaders communication is poorly understood and badly executed.

Many of the people who gain promotion to management are not chosen because they have outstanding communication skills; they are chosen because of professional expertise or simply for being good at their job. On the employees’ side, a ajar problem is the sheer volume of information they receive, meaning that they often do not know what to do with it and what it all means. This is the result of communicating without knowing where it will lead to. In contrast, strategic communication is the reverse of this chaotic approach: it brings focus and understanding.

Research has shown that what employees are really looking for is “communication” that helps them do their jobs well. They also mostly say that they prefer to get this kind of information from their managers, supervisors and team leaders. So the challenge is how to unlock the power of this opportunity. There are five imperatives for those who seek to use communication as part of real leadership. Make the time: To say you don’t have time to communicate is to say you don’t have time to lead. This communication is more than a few memos, e-mails and meetings.

It is vastly more than “my door is always open”. A good leader needs a strategy to shape his communication, and then the ability to see it through. Time, persistence and repetition are essential ingredients of good communication. The right information: Naturally employees want to know how information and news relates to them. However, mostly they get wags of information and no help in differentiating it. Information overload and communication failure are team-mates. A discussion of developments within your company or organization should include what the changes mean to your team and their customers.

Your people want to know the “why” of things that happen, because with the “why’ they can become engaged. Don’t wait to communicate: A massive leadership problem is secrecy. We are not comfortable as leaders if we do not have all the answers, so we wait until it is too late. The result is always rumor, gossip and declining engagement. For many, the first step to good leadership is a public acknowledgement that you don’t know everything. Being comfortable with not having all the answers provides real integrity to your messages.

So tell them what you know, tell them what you don’t know and tell them when you should know more. Be open and honest: People have great inbuilt lie detectors. Nothing switches people off quicker than a lie, it also extends to gossip and “talking big”, a failing of those managers who desperately want to impress and think that “if I am a leader I should know everything and be in everything”. Much better instead is to communicate in a real, open and human way. What you “say/’ should match what you “do”.

Words without matching action are worse than no words at all. You cannot be a leader if you cannot lead by example. Actions speak louder than words. For example, if you promise to do something by a set time, always deliver. At the least, if you cannot deliver explain what has changed and therefore it cannot happen as expected it is worth going out of your way to get this understood. Failure to live up to your promises is a signal to others that they don’t need to either. Employees are not dummies: Listen to employees. Make it a real two-way communication.

In most organizations, there are ordinary employees who have already identified the problem and know how to solve it. Ask them and encourage them to be forthright, even where there may be disagreement; communication has the goal of understanding. Organizations spend a fortune on measuring customer satisfaction and trying to find out what they want and need, yet few have a clear idea of the communication needs of their employees. We know the stages that an employee goes through from the initial “What’s my job? ” o the fully engaged and switched on employee who asks “How can help? With planning and the right strategy, Indian’s managers, supervisors and team leaders can communicate so successfully that more and more employees move over into the engaged category then India would have a real competitive advantage. Ways Leaders can improve Employee Engagement There is no shortcut towards creating and maintaining employee engagement, it takes commitment and an investment of time, effort and resources on the part of a company, but the payoff in terms of enhanced productivity, profitability and elevated morale is well worth it.

As leader drives to employee engagement, “building engagement is a process that never ends. And it rests on the foundation of a meaningful and emotionally enriching work experience. ” The first step toward maximizing the level of engagement in a company is to set in place a mechanism to regularly measure and assess prevailing employee attitudes through comprehensive employee satisfaction surveys. Engagement levels are influenced by individual attitudes, propensities and characteristics so managers need to carefully gauge and consider what is most relevant and important for their own staff.

A leader can improve the employee engagement, in the following ways:- Conducting periodic staff briefings covering good news about the company, its challenges and that is financial information Ensuring that managers and supervisors are able to give and receive constructive feedback Making it a habit to get feedback from employees and customers and act on it Getting staff involved in redesigning their jobs Making sure employees have what they require to do their jobs Communicating clearly and openly on work performance in terms of your vision, priorities and success measures.

Conduct meaningful orientations Get to know the employees interest, goals and stresses (Show an interest but do not pry) Celebrate individual, team and organizational successes By being consistent in your support for engagement initiatives Clearly an environment where employees are valued, respected, involved, challenged, have opportunities to grow and are clear about their roles and their contributions to the company’s goals and performance, is much more conducive to feelings of commitment and corporate citizenship amongst the workforce is depended on leadership qualities.

The employees are loyal only to themselves and their arrears and are looking to do the minimum to get by. But turning people’s energy and ambition into engagement and ultimately into significant performance lift demands attention, focus and some very different behaviors from senior leaders, as well as clear follow-through on a number of organizational practices. The challenge for senior management is to recognize the value of employees’ untapped potential and to channel it in ways that yield real improvements in business performance. If there is one thing you should do to improve the odds that you have an engaged workforce and low turnover, it’s this: be ere your managers and executives have the interpersonal skills necessary to motivate and engage employees. Management know-how doesn’t come naturally to most. If your managers are people with technical training who have moved up through the ranks to management positions, you should be doubly concerned. The Gallup organization conducted a study asking employees why they left their companies.

The top answer: “My manager. ” The Right Training A one-day, standalone management training program will not give you the results you need. Training programs are wonderful but rarely result in sustainable results. Managers attend training programs on topics designed to improve their interpersonal skills all the time (communication skills, performance management, etc. ). During the day-long program, they practice new behaviors and feel motivated to bring those new behaviors back to the workplace.

But the truth is, it’s rare for a manager to come out of a one-day program with those new behaviors fully integrated into his or her personal style. Why? Because when a new situation comes up that wasn’t covered in the training, or during times of change and stress, it’s natural for people to revert back to he old, comfortable way of doing things. Training topics quickly get lost in the pressures of day-to-day work. However, there is a proven way to get better results from your management training programs: coaching. Employees can be coached by their supervisors.

Managers can be coached by the executives to whom they report. And executives within an organization may reach outside for executive coaches, a trend that is on a major increase. Executive coaching sometimes referred to as leadership coaching is intended to provide continuous, individualized support for business professionals in an effort to develop the impenitence associated with good leadership. Good leadership, in turn, motivates employees, boosts productivity, impacts service and product quality, stimulates employee morale and retention, and ultimately increases profitability and shareholder value.

Conclusion: Today, more and more corporate leaders are turning to volunteer employee programs as a key strategy to help realize their business goals while positively engaging their employees in helping to meet the needs of the local community. Leader should ensure that, employees are enthusiastic about getting involved, it s important to find creative and meaningful ways for them to participate so that their efforts can really make a difference, and they feel they have a positive role to play.