Employee engagement is a term that gets tossed around often in conversations on the modern American workplace and what drives it forward. But the expression can also seem quite nebulous and broad. Let’s define it here.
According to Forbes, employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This may make things even more confusing though. For many, commitment in general is scary—why would we want to ask this of our employees?
So, let’s dig into what employee engagement actually means in practice, and perhaps more importantly, what it doesn’t. These are the three most common myths I see that relate to employee engagement, along with what the facts really say.
Myth #1: Employee engagement is outdated and a thing of the past.
Fact: Employee engagement is more important than ever, and it can begin as early as the interview process. Best case scenario—employee engagement is a part of the day-to-day culture of every workplace. It isn’t an event, point in time or single measurement. However, one way to get a pretty good idea of how your business is doing with employee engagement is to measure the average tenure of your team members. The median number of years that wage and salary workers have worked for their current employer is currently 4.6 years, according to an Economic News release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If your tenure is lower than 4.6 years, then keep reading. If it’s higher, congratulations and may we suggest you also keep reading.
Myth #2: Employee engagement initiatives cost way too much.
Fact: Employee engagement is an investment in your human capital, which is likely your most valuable resource as a company. A disengaged employee costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary. They also cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year due to lost productivity, according to McLean & Company. Employee engagement initiatives typically equate to a nominal financial investment with the opportunity for big gains.
Myth #3: Employee engagement initiatives take too much time to implement.
Fact: Employee engagement comes in many layers and forms. Creating an employee engaged-culture requires deliberate and intentional actions, because it requires asking your employees to interact with the “why” of their daily work. Why do they work here? Why do they not work somewhere else? Once that is more strongly defined for your team members, equip them with opportunities to excel using their responsibilities and talents. Put them into the positions and opportunities at which they are likely to succeed, and it will reinforce the “why.” It will allow the employer to tap into the emotional connection described above, and thus begin to build the foundation for commitment and engagement.
Alas, there isn’t a template for creating an employee engaged-culture. What works for one company may not work another. But these are the programs and priorities I see at successful companies over and over again, and that appear on Glassdoor’s list as well:
- Health and wellness
- Work-life balance
- Office space
- Incentives, rewards & recognition programs
- Promoting innovation
- Frequent company communications
- Career development
We would encourage you to open the conversation for your employees to discover their answers to the “why am I here” question. Emotional commitment to your company from your team members will bring about synergy that can redefine your biggest goals as an organization.
Emily Possidento, MBA, SHRM-SCP is the HR Consulting Senior Manager at MCM. She has more than 16 years of experience in hiring assistance, assessments, and organizational development. Prior to joining MCM, she worked for a Fortune 100 company, as well as a privately-held executive search firm.
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