Engagement is one of those key words that is thrown around HR offices and boardrooms on a regular basis. We all want to have an engaged workforce, and many of us already undertake surveys to assess how engaged our staff are. But do we really understand what engagement is, and do these surveys provide us with clear direction about how to improve the engagement of our staff? Without a clear definition of the meaning of engagement and what drives it, it can be hard to know what to measure, and even harder to determine actions to improve levels of engagement within our organisation.
So, what do you think of when you hear the word engagement mentioned? For me, the words enthusiasm and passion come to mind, alongside a sense of purpose and connection with the work someone does. In fact, most researchers and practitioners would agree that the term engagement is complex and multi-faceted, with components that relate to a psychological state (e.g. feelings of passion), performance (e.g. discretionary effort) and traits (e.g. conscientiousness). Further, there are a number of workplace and environmental factors such as transformational leadership and role enjoyment that can drive engagement, but do not represent engagement itself.
So, what does this mean for measuring engagement in your organisation? Research by Genos International indicates that individuals who are engaged will undertake four key behaviours, including:
- praise the organisation to others
- perform above what is expected
- persist in the face of difficulties
- perfect what they do
Measuring the extent to which your staff act out these behaviours on a day to day basis provides a good indicator of employee engagement. However, simply measuring how engaged your staff are is in itself not going to help drive actions to make improvements. In order to facilitate action planning, the key is also measuring the particular drivers of engagement within your business, such as communication and executive leadership, and how important these are seen to be to the success of your organisation. This combination of measures will give you an understanding of what is driving engagement within your unique environment and therefore allow you to implement targeted strategies in order to improve your business and execute your strategy. Another key point is ensuring that leaders within your organisation have sufficient levels of emotional intelligence, as this has been shown to be a critical factor for lifting the engagement levels of staff.