Employee engagement is one of the hardest metrics to quantify, especially with respect to its impact on the bottom line of any business. In the US, separate research from Gallup and The Engagement Institute estimates that a disengaged workforce costs businesses between USD 350 to 550 billion every year, respectively. And yet, despite this potential loss, organizations struggle to fill this gap in workplace engagement. In fact, current reports indicate that 85% of employees are not engaged in their workplace. This is a persistent challenge for modern enterprises, which is becoming even more critical as we enter an era of uncertainty and disruption.
Employee Engagement and Corporate Culture
At its core, employee engagement is a reflection of corporate culture. Done correctly, it turns workers into acolytes, and leaders into evangelists. It instills passion for the work and commitment toward the organization. It fosters exceptional performance, encourages self-starters, enhances customer engagement and ensures business resilience. In effect, high employee engagement and overall workplace engagement can drive measurable productivity and innovation, leading to the broader success for the organizations.
Unfortunately, despite the appreciation for this reality, the practical results for employee and customer engagement are inconsistent. A Harvard Business Review survey reported that 71% of leaders believed employee engagement to be “very important” to their organizational success while 72% identified performance recognition as a chief driver of employee engagement. And while organizations spend over USD 100 billion annually to improve engagement, only 13% of employees are actually engaged. Clearly, something needs to change.
The Three Pillars of Engagement
For any organization, it is imperative to understand that employee engagement and company culture need to synergize and create a 360-degree environment necessary for effective employee engagement. Unfortunately, many organizations find it challenging to adequately deploy, sustain, and measure these initiatives. In my experience, achieving this goal requires a 360-degree framework that addresses the three crucial pillars of engagement– professional, intellectual, and social.
Professional engagement is the first pillar of employee engagement. It is aimed at empowering employees by investing in a continuous learning and development (L&D) program. Organizations that prioritize L&D can reap the benefits both in terms of driving higher professional engagement as well as business growth. Research from a Udemy Study indicated that 80% of the employees felt that L&D opportunities help them feel more engaged in their jobs. It’s no surprise then that these initiatives act as a key driver of employee engagement.
Investing in employee L&D not only makes improves job performance but also opens up new growth opportunities for workers as they learn to bring more value to the organization. These programs are also instrumental as an indicator of how the organization values its employee and impacts loyalty and employee retention as well. According to the LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report, a staggering 94% of the respondents pointed career development through learning as a reason for staying longer at their companies.
Professional engagement also plays a key role in fostering in-house leadership. It imparts valuable company culture along while also protecting institutional memory knowledge that is invaluable going into the future. Organizations that provide such experiences with a learning-centric approach built on customized learning personas and technology tools are better suited for disruptive times. This is especially true today, as we shift to an increasingly large-scale, distributed workforce environment which needs advanced remote learning experiences to improve future outcomes.
Intellectual engagement is another key area for organizational focus. It involves an organized framework where the capabilities of employees, and their ongoing skill development, is pushed further in rewarding ways. This takes on the form of employee initiatives such as “innovation drives” and “hackathons”. For instance, the invention of Facebook’s “Like” button was the result of an internal hackathon, just like the React Native mobile app framework.
Intellectual engagements provide a much needed respite from business-as-usual, and engage employees in new and interesting ways. They create opportunities for teams to work together and solve real-world problems while also igniting their entrepreneurial potential. Internal hackathons serve as a great way to entice employees with experience rewards that help them further leapfrog their careers in a proactive manner. As a result, organizations can discover a myriad of mutual benefits for employees as well as organizations.
In August 2020, HCL technologies announced a multi-phase hackathon aimed at collaborative tech-based solutions for COVID-19 pandemic mitigation and management. The HCL Better Health Hackathon served the dual aim of addressing prevention and containment, diagnosis and treatment, recovery and return, and the systemic solutions for pandemic management. It also engaged technology innovators, entrepreneurs, and problem-solvers from a global developer community to solidify the role of technology in alleviating pandemic-related challenges today and for the future.
The final pillar of employee engagement is social engagement which is aimed at offering employees a break from the stress, monotony, and routine of normal work. It includes leisure activities that allow every member to relax which has been shown to promote team cohesion, coordination, and empathy. Such events include socialization activities like office parties, team meals, competitive games, appreciation events, and much more. In the pandemic scenario, social engagement has taken a whole new level of importance with millions working from home. Workplace engagement is highly related to building an inclusive culture driven by social bonds.
A study on workplace engagement in the United States found that disengaged workers cost employers about $450-550 billion annually. This has led to greater instances of company-organized activities that promote intermingling outside the pressures of work. Such initiatives have shown to enhance employee happiness which can result in up to 12% more productivity, up to 20% greater performance, and a rise of up to 37% in sales. According to SHRM/Globoforce Survey, recognizing employees in meaningful ways can positively impact engagement for nearly 90% of the workforce. As company-wide game-a-thons and watch parties become all the more common, it’s important to recognize that they not only serve to boost morale and increase motivation but are a valuable opportunity for organizations to express their appreciation for their employee’s efforts.
360 Degrees of Engagement
These three pillars form the complete 360-degree employee engagement experience that can revolutionize how organizations and workers synergize toward mutual outcomes. These programs have multifaceted benefits for all parties and are especially critical during periods of volatility and disruption.
The current pandemic has radically changed how we work and interact. In this new remote working paradigm, organizations continue to face substantial challenges. This includes reduced levels of engagement and enthusiasm, decline in training, reduction in collaboration, waning motivation, and the rise in mental health pressures among the workforce.
Today, it is more important than ever for organizations to routinely engage with their workers. To invest in every opportunity to ensure that the workforce remains the best ambassador of the enterprise’s brand and values. So, as we look over the horizon to the future and try to discern a clear picture of the “new normal”, one thing remains certain– we must retain and nurture our most valuable asset– our employees.