Click here to read the article as published in the November 2023 edition of Moneywise

Unlocking the Power of Employee Engagement: Going Beyond Superficial Surveys 

Employee engagement, the cornerstone of a productive and loyal workforce, is a term often used in the corporate world. But what does true employee engagement entail, and how can organisations effectively measure and enhance this elusive concept? In this three-part series, we’ll embark on a transformative journey to unravel the intricacies of employee engagement and confront the disruptive phenomenon of “quiet quitting” that has haunted several organisations globally.  

Satisfaction vs. Engagement: The  Critical Difference 

To begin with, it is essential to differentiate between employee satisfaction and employee engagement. While satisfaction surveys have been a common method of gauging employee contentment, they often fall short in capturing the depth of employee engagement. Satisfaction merely scratches the surface, measuring how content employees are with their workplace and conditions. Engagement, on the other hand, encompasses a deeper commitment to the organisation. Engaged employees go beyond contentment; they are emotionally invested, exhibit discretionary effort and are aligned with the company’s mission and values. 

Look at brands like Nordstrom, Singapore Airlines or even Zappos, for instance. Employee engagement is such an integral part of the organisation’s discipline and culture that going above and beyond is just a part of their normal work everyday. And this happens only because of two critical reasons:  

  • employees understand the organisation’s strategy and direction very well, and they also understand their role in steering the organisation towards that goal. 
  • staff feel the emotions that the organisation wants the customers to feel; hence, they are able to transfer these planned emotions equally well to the customers, thus enhancing customer experience. 

The Economic Benefits of Measuring Engagement 

Measuring true employee engagement can yield substantial economic value for organisations. Numerous studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive, stay with the company longer, and contribute to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. Engaged Strategy’s studies have also proven that engaged employees show 2X more discretionary effort than disengaged staff. This is the willingness to go above and beyond.  Imagine the incremental productivity benefits of engaging staff! Sadly, study after study shows that there are more disengaged staff than engaged staff.  

The staggering cost of replacing an employee, which can range from 50% to 100% of their annual salary, underscores the direct economic impact of engagement (not satisfaction). In contrast, disengaged employees often engage in the subtle rebellion termed “quiet quitting,” where they clock in but withhold their full potential. This silent dissent culminates in diminished productivity and escalates staff turnover rates, both of which leave an indelible mark on an organisation’s bottom line. 

The Importance Of Purpose, Understanding Core Needs & Emotions At Work  

To bridge the chasm between employee satisfaction and employee engagement, organisations must take proactive steps. Leadership assumes a pivotal role in nurturing engagement by setting a higher-order goal or purpose for the workforce. This transcends the boundaries of conventional operational and financial objectives, striving to create work that resonates with employees’ values, instills a sense of purpose, and fosters unwavering commitment. In all our employee engagement studies having a purpose beyond economics is one of the top drivers of engagement. It is also important to measure how well the organisation meets core human needs such as connection, growth and significance. Once work meets an individual’s core needs, it becomes a positive addiction and staff look forward to coming to work. Finally, it is critical to measure the emotions staff feel at work.  

Once you tap into a purpose beyond economics, core human needs, and emotions, you are on your way towards true engagement because you now have the foundation to achieve truly spectacular results.   

My own experience working with a large financial brand that offered banking, insurance and investment products,  illustrates this point.. Initially, their service staff exhibited reluctance towards cross-selling products, owing to the unfavourable connotations of the word “SELL.” However, a transformative shift occurred when the focus pivoted from “SELLing” to “HELPing”. The message to staff was that they needed to HELP customers save more, earn more, and protect their lifestyle. The mindset shift of aligning their service-based role with a profound sense of a duty to care for customers resulted in a remarkable transformation, as staff transitioned from sellers to dedicated service helpers. The reason it worked was because the concept of helping and that it was their duty of care as service staff resonated as it matched their core needs for connection with customers and matched their personal purpose to help.  

The outcome was nothing short of spectacular — a staggering 80,000 incremental sales in less than a year and an exponential surge in customer loyalty.. 

It is essential to note that employee engagement isn’t confined to reshaping job roles or heightening awareness of the organisation’s vision or strategy. It also entails equipping employees with the tools and resources to catalyse teamwork, ignite innovation and infuse work with a sense of fun. Celebrations, recognitions, and incentives play pivotal roles in kindling employee engagement, forging a culture imbued with purpose, collaboration and unbridled satisfaction. 

Hence, Employee Engagement should not be treated as a mere buzzword; it serves as the cornerstone that can either catapult or cripple an organisation’s success. Satisfaction surveys, while valuable, merely scratch the surface. True engagement entails crafting a work environment that aligns with employees’ values, breathes purpose into every role, and nurtures collaboration. In the forthcoming article of this series, we will delve deeper into this higher-order objective, exploring how leadership styles can transcend operational and financial goals to catalyse profound engagement. 

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