What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is a buzz-phrase, sure, but also an issue of great relevance for any modernising workplace. William Kahn, the father of employee engagement theory, defined it as the “harnessing of organization members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role performances.”
In layman’s terms, engagement is about ensuring that employees value the work they are doing and feel themselves to be operating within teams built upon collaboration and mutual respect.
Engagement is a pressing issue: the Udemy 2018 Workplace Distraction Report found that nearly three quarters of all workers report feeling distracted on the job, and 16% report feeling consistently distracted. A Michigan State University study also found that even brief interruptions can double error rates.
In a world of endless notifications, unnecessary emails and shortening concentration spans, we need to think seriously about what all this is doing to our ability to engage with the task at hand. In Nir Eyal’s book ‘Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life,’ he defines indistractability as “doing whatever it is you say you want to do with your time.” He also claims being indistractable is the ‘skill of the century.’
It is a sad indictment of our age that so many find it difficult to focus for extended periods of time. There is something slightly dystopian in the idea that being ‘indistractable’ is somehow a skill; previous generations would have understood professional work as little else but the ability to focus. It is also a reality that we’re all better at focusing on the things that we enjoy, and find meaning in. Our attention is much fickler than we might like to admit, but if you can get someone to enjoy a task, then you can get them to engage with it seriously.
So, how to engage employees?
Well, admittedly, it is easier said than done. Depth and consistency of approach are absolutely key. Otherwise, employee engagement strategies come across as superficial. Employees aren’t stupid – they know when they’re being sold a fad, a trend or a box-ticking exercise.
Phones away is an obvious answer. In a meeting, or when working on a specific task, is there any reason for your phone to be on? We have to respect our schedules: plan, allot time to speak to specific people about specific things, and honour those arrangements. Total, instantaneous connectivity might sound clever and modern, but good work takes time and attention. We have to allow each other the space to complete what needs completing. Employers should encourage teams to find a pace and a routine that works for them.
Employee engagement surveys are important, too. They encourage open communication and a sense that employee’s inputs are trusted and valued. Communication itself is important – we have to be open and honest, set clear goals and set out how it is that we intend to get to them. One on one sessions must lead to measurable goals; it’s a results world. Lastly, it is about motivation – tying employees into the strategy of the company and mapping their input onto the bigger picture. Not easy, then, but most definitely important.
Looking to maximise the benefits of engagement for your own business? Give us a quick call on 0161 883 1149 to talk through your needs.