Continuing the discussion from my last post on how Employee Engagement can create business value, here I will write about how organizations can implement a range of workplace strategies to increase the levels of engagement. In this post we look at some best practices relevant to all types of organizations, though the nuances and implementation will vary from setting to setting.
Meaningful work and clarity of objectives
Having a meaningful job is the most important factor that affects levels of engagement for all employee groups. Employees, who are able to relate their tasks to a broader context and feel that they can make a difference have positive perceptions about their work. Where employees can see the impact of their work on the organization or on the customers or on society in general, the level of motivation and engagement are higher.
Work can be made meaningful by
- Assigning jobs to individuals based on their ability and attitude.
- Communicating to the employee how the job adds value to the organization and fits into the overall objective of the organization.
Senior management communication style and vision
Senior Management can achieve higher levels of engagement by linking the desired organization outcomes to measurable performance drivers. The manner in which a firm’s management structure the organization, shape up the culture and people practices, and create incentives for their employees defines the firm’s ability to use its people to differentiate and compete.
Communication from senior management about organization’s vision and objectives helps employees to understand the overall purpose of the organization and see a bigger picture in their daily work.
Employees’ level of engagement and other work responses are affected by their perceptions of management style. Middle management has a significant role to play in creating an optimal working environment and in helping line managers to support employees in achieving their performance goals. Line managers are the interface between employees and senior managers; as such they need to ensure that the right people are placed in jobs that are appropriate for their skills and abilities. They also need to communicate the goals and objectives clearly, so that employees can focus their effort on specific tasks. This is particularly important in large organizations where there is typically little contact between the senior management team and employees. Articulating the link between individual jobs and the broader organizational aims helps employees to see how their role fits with, and contributes to, the bigger picture of the organizational strategy.
Person – job fit
People need to be in the right jobs with appropriate targets to channel their engagement. When people are assigned work for which they have a natural flair and which is in sync with their passions, productivity increases. Employees stand a far greater chance of being able to take on additional work if the work is in tune with their natural talents.
In some firms employees are moved from their typical day-to-day task to a whole new role, for a limited time to increase the exposure of employees to different functions. This is known as JOB ROTATION. Although this has the advantage of increasing flexibility of production, it does not lead to motivation.
JOB ENLARGEMENT is another technique that involves adding more tasks of SIMILAR COMPLEXITY to the existing job. This technique too does not improve upon the motivational content of the job.
Some organizations provide their employees with opportunities to experience greater RESPONSIBILITY through ENHANCED tasks that require employees to use skills they have not used before, while staying on in the current role. This is known as JOB ENRICHMENT.
Job enrichment involves adding MORE COMPLEX tasks to a job over a period of time. These new tasks are designed to stretch individuals to utilize their latent skills and abilities by giving them greater responsibility; as well as greater freedom and challenge necessary for self development. These are presented as OPPORTUNITIES rather than demands that MAY be tackled as an optional extra.
Herzberg claims that while Job rotation and job enlargement fail to motivate because they do not offer the opportunity for growth in the psychological sense, Job enrichment provides the opportunity for the employees’ psychological growth.
When introducing Job enrichment , jobs chosen to be enriched should be such for which MOTIVATION will make a difference. There is no point in attempting to get people to increase their effort unless their increased effort leads to increased productivity. It is observed that employees with high growth needs are more responsive to job enrichment while people with low skills or knowledge are less responsive. Besides, if people are upset about other context things (pay, company policies, etc.) they are less responsive to enrichment.
Jobs that are designed to have appropriate breadth and depth [] tend to increase engagement. HR professionals can play a key role in helping line managers to design jobs effectively and in developing selection processes that match individual skills to jobs, taking into consideration employee factors such as:
- ability (can they do it),
- motivation (will they do it).
Further HR can play a critical role in the selection, development and performance management of line managers to ensure that line managers are equipped to perform as engaging leaders.
Person – organization fit
A match between the organization culture and the natural talents, passions, and motivations of employees creates higher levels of engagement. Assessing candidates for emotional competencies, soft skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, motivation, finding out how they’ll respond in real world situations, helps in recruiting employees who “fit” with the organization in terms of values and core competencies. Take for example a firm whose main strength lies in developing new products and technology. Such a firm needs to have the culture and the bandwidth to tolerate failures and moreover it needs to be managed and staffed by people who are driven by creativity, who thrive upon working in a dynamic environment and who are not averse to risk-taking. In contrast, a firm in which efficiency and cost-control are critical will employ people who people who are oriented towards managing costs carefully.
Supportive work environment and employee voice
Engagement levels are also affected by the working environment. Engagement levels are higher where employees have a sense of teamwork, they perceive that they have support from others in accomplishing their job, and they can safely express themselves. Employees who have the confidence that the management would take into consideration their opinion while making decisions on workplace issues that affect them; will have a positive perception of the management. The belief that managers are interested in the well-being and career growth of their team members acts as an important motivator for employees and increases their engagement. Individual-level feedback can booth both engagement and performance.
The employee efforts and engagement and the rewards should be positively correlated. The reciprocation of efforts should include opportunities for development and promotion so employees can see their future trajectory within their organization.
It is very important for managers to show appreciation for the engaged employees, and find ways to engage other employees. At the same time, it is also crucial for business managers to understand that many times disengaged employees have strong motives behind their behaviors and there are some employees whose buy in is difficult to come by.