There have been numerous articles about the importance of employee engagement, 94% of the worlds most admired companies state that an engaged workforce creates a competitive advantage. However, there still seems to be a lack of engagement with the workforce holistically according to the Management 2020 report.
If there is a direct link to engagement and productivity, which in turn leads to revenue growth, innovation and profitability, and has an added bonus of creating a feeling of satisfaction within the workforce leading to employee loyalty. Why, therefore, are businesses not proactively engaging employees?
Unfortunately, employee engagement is impacted by external factors, such as the economic crisis, budget cuts and increased globalisation, all resulting in organisational restructures, downsizing, and businesses generally feeling uneasy about the market. As such, many businesses have reacted by refocusing organisational strategy, which has led to the neglect of employee engagement altogether.
However, engagement should not be looked at in isolation. Research for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) from Rachel Lewis and Emma Donaldson-Feilder, has looked at evidence which suggests that employee engagement and psychological wellbeing go hand in hand. The research shows that highly engaged employees who have high levels of wellbeing are the most productive and happy, whereas, employees who are disengaged with lower levels of wellbeing are likely to contribute least.
It would appear from the research that employee engagement and wellbeing can lead to a more productive workforce. If this is the case, how can this be achieved in light of external factors? Therein lies the problem, but if businesses are to start the process it must begin with their managers, specifically the line managers. Dame Carole Black’s review of the health of Britain’s working age population found, “Good line management can lead to good health, wellbeing and improved performance.”
Sustainable engagement can only be achieved if organisations improve the skills of their managers, in line with developing their manager’s workforce relationships. To attain these results an influx of training and development is needed.
As a result of their research, Lewis and Donaldson-Feilder developed a framework containing five behavioural themes or competencies for line managers, they should:
- Be open, fair and consistent. Manage with integrity and consistency, and take a positive approach in interpersonal interactions.
- Deal with employee conflicts and use appropriate organisational resources.
- Deliver clear communication, advice and guidance.
- Build and sustain relationships. Adopt empathy and consideration with employees.
- Support employee development and career progression.
(Professional Manager, Summer 2014: 16)
It is difficult for individual managers to decipher how successful they are in respect to their employee engagement and behavioural tendencies. However, the most useful tool to determine this is feedback. The insight gained from the perceptions of employees, colleagues or more senior managers may shed some much needed light onto working practices, which could lead to behavioural change. Although, this is easier said than done, there may be a training and development need, or coaching may be more suitable. Nevertheless, a proactive approach is needed on behalf of organisations and individual managers for this change process to take place.
If such a proactive approach is adopted, transformation within the organisation will ensue, enabling all to reap in the rewards.
It cannot be emphasised enough that professional training and development is the foundation from which good management practice develops.