Employee engagement is essential to ensure personal and professional growth for individuals and success and growth for any start-up business.
Study after study has revealed that engaged employees are more productive, more innovative and more likely to deliver either better-quality products or a higher level of customer service. In contrast, just one disengaged employee can cost a business in excess of £5,000 in terms of annual profits.
Understanding the importance of engagement is the starting point to unlocking and promoting optimum performance for your business, but making it happen can be problematic without the necessary knowledge and resources. Employing proven techniques and obtaining expert advice and guidance can be key to unlocking the potential of your employees and to making the whole process more manageable and easier to sustain. There are expert companies in the field and a widely documented host of popular techniques to help with the process. There is also a host of high-profile companies to gain inspiration from, many of which produce case studies, whitepapers and surveys – such as the Global Employee Engagement Trends survey from Aon Hewitt.
The Aon model places a strong focus on employee services and emphasises the importance of identifying the drivers to engagement in order to implement strategies and techniques that will be most beneficial to both the employees and the organisation involved. It also looks at how companies can enhance their employer brand, how to engage staff at all levels of the business and methods to improve everything from employee retention to profitability.
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Marks & Spencer is committed to using employee engagement surveys to help shape working practices and boost performance. The business carries out an annual survey, allowing staff members to feed back. Meanwhile, personnel specialists at Acas believe that any business should strive to focus on good leadership, ongoing communication, the correct choice of line management, listening to staff and gaining from their knowledge and building trust and fostering integrity. There are also other key factors such as offering the right financial incentives, working environment and opportunities for development.
This focus will lead to a workforce that is motivated and enthusiastic rather than one lacking in creative thought, commitment to the business and productivity. You will find that an engaged staff member is less likely to take time off work and will be more inclined to go above and beyond the call of duty as a result of their pride in, and enthusiasm for, their work.
Alcoa Power and Propulsion is one company that has seen the results of a commitment to employee engagement. This has been achieved through a culture of relationship development, continuous team-led improvement initiatives, communication programmes and planned changes in leadership styles. These were accompanied by well-being initiatives for employees, including a quit-smoking programme and a SunSafe campaign. Community initiatives were also focused on areas where members of the workforce lived, and the children of staff were even offered cycling proficiency training.
Another idea that could be taken from the likes of Alcoa is the implantation of a suggestion scheme. This not only gives staff the required ‘voice’ and sense of ownership, but can also generate ideas and suggestions with real business value. As a result of these sorts of ideas, staff turnover at Alcoa decreased from 22 per cent to below one per cent in three years, on-time delivery reached 96 per cent in 2013, up from 46.7 per cent in 2009, and labour productivity continues to go up by ten per cent a year.
The techniques used to achieve engagement vary from business to business, but there seem to be two major common factors among those companies reaping the rewards of their pro-active efforts. The first is the very real value of employee engagement, and the second is that engagement itself should be seen as a journey rather than as a finite goal. This allows for a continuing culture of employee satisfaction and an unrelenting charge towards greater success for the business involved.