Building an Engaged Workforce
I have previously written about the benefits of building an engaged workforce and have set out the clear and significant business benefits this offers on a number of occasions. For anyone still to be convinced, I recommend having a look at the ‘Engage for Success’ website. However, whilst a lot of businesses now understand the benefits of improving employee engagement, not many understand how to do it, nor that engagement is an output not a process. In fact, it is Employee Involvement that is the process and it is this process, when conducted effectively, that leads to improved engagement.
The great thing about Employee Involvement is that there’s no real mystery or science and we all know what it means – involving employees, at all levels of the organisation, in understanding and discussing where the business is at, where it wants to be in the future and how it plans to get there. Beyond this, the only things that we need to be aware of when considering an Employee Involvement exercise are these: Keep it simple and avoid business speak wherever possible Ask employee’s what they think, rather than telling them what the leaders want to hear Create an environment for an effective two-way discussion, not a one-way presentation Be open to (any) feedback and challenge Accept that no idea is a bad idea and encourage employees to make suggestions Give feedback on what you have learnt from the exercise and plan to do as a result Make sure there are ongoing opportunities for employees to be involved.
The reason why effective Employee Involvement works is that, by nature, we all want a clear sense of direction and purpose, to understand what is expected of us and what we are empowered to do and to be given the support to improve and develop. Equally, and critically, we don’t want to just be told this, we want to be engaged in discussions that help us to understand this and why things are as they are.
The Role of the Leader
It is essential, therefore, that leaders understand the value of Employee Involvement and how best to go about it and that they go into it with the right attitude. Leaders who approach Employee Involvement as a tick-box exercise will be found out and won’t get much out of the process. In fact, they are more likely to breed resistance and contempt.
However, those leaders who take the time to go about it properly and who are brave enough to open themselves up to question and suggestion, will achieve more than you might think. This is because employees who have become involved in something and who feel like they have had the opportunity to contribute to it, will automatically become engaged in it and feel they have some ownership of it. This in turn generates a sense of pride in and loyalty to the initiative in question which will guarantee that any discretionary effort required to make the initiative a success will be given.
Business as Usual
The ultimate challenge, and the key to developing an engaged workforce, is to ensure that Employee Involvement becomes part of the organisational culture and ‘the way things are done around here’ rather than a one-off initiative. Involving employees in all business matters, not just major change initiatives, will build its own momentum and lasting impact and, for those leaders who fear the time this may take, will deliver returns in improved productivity, service delivery and customer satisfaction that drive significant top and bottom line benefits.