Employee engagement: why invest?

Employee engagement: why invest?

Thu, 29 Nov 2012

A recent survey showed two thirds of Australian employees are not engaged with their jobs or their employer. Worse still, almost half the five thousand workers surveyed are actively disengaged.

The survey by Right Management, a division of Manpower Group, highlights a significant financial risk for Australia business and demonstrates the need for companies engage with their employees and make sure they have a compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

The high cost of employee disengagement

If an organisation is only as good as the people who work for it, what are the costs of a disengaged workforce? According to a Gallup study in 2008, the annual cost of employee disengagement to Australian businesses is between $33.5 and $42.1 billion. Disengaged employees are often unproductive and inefficient and are also far more likely to leave, and replacing them is expensive and impacts your bottom line.

Impacts on recruitment and retention

The Right Management survey discovered Australia is the fourth worst performing country in terms of attracting candidates and filling jobs. In Australia, where we have such a shortage of skilled labour, attracting and retaining staff is a key benefit of a developing an effective EVP for your company.

Engaged employees become your brand ambassadors and play an important role in portraying your company as an employer of choice and somewhere people will want to work. They are also far less likely to leave than disengaged employees. In fact, the same survey found engaged employees have a 44% retention rate compared to disengaged employees.

The benefits of an engaged workforce

An engaged employee feels positively connected to their job and passionate about their contribution to your company. Engaged employees are more collaborative and have a more innovative approach to their jobs.  When your employees are engaged they will go the extra mile to deliver improved product quality or customer service with benefits for your business’ productivity and profitability.

There’s also a strong connection between employee engagement and customer advocacy. Red Balloon is a company that consistently appears on the BRW Top 50 Places to Work list and in 2012 appeared at number 17. General Manager of Corporate Matt Geraghty describes Red Balloon as the home of ‘committed and happy employees willing to shout about their employer’.

Your employees have a direct impact on the image of your brand in your customers’ eyes and an enthusiastic, engaged employee will create a positive customer experience. Employee branding is about your employees being your best brand champions.

EVPs: The cornerstone of an engaged workforce

Your employees are simultaneously one of your most important stakeholder groups, and the custodians of your brand, responsible for delivering your brand to your customers and making it genuine and believable.

An effective EVP is the cornerstone of any engagement strategy – it gives your team a ‘reason to believe’. It helps your employees understand who you are, where you are going, and what role they play in the future of your organisation. A well-articulated EVP will help you both attract and then retain employees who are a good cultural match for your organisation.

From disengaged to engaged

Employee engagement is more than simply job satisfaction, employee motivation or company culture. It is about your employees feeling positively connected to their jobs and passionate about their contribution to your company.  It’s about creating opportunities for growth and making sure your employees understand their value and where they fit in.

Determining what drives engagement is critical, and it can be different for difference sections of your team. For example, according to Right Management, Gen X males (aged 30 – 44) are currently the most disengaged group in the workforce.

“Men in this age group are often supporting young families, so they may feel obliged to stay in a role that’s not right for them. Employers shouldn’t ignore the challenges facing this group, and ensure they provide support such as career development and flexible hours,” said Bridget Beattie, Regional General Manager, Right Management.

Once you understand how to motivate them, you can work to set incentives and bring accountability to your team. How? By defining behaviours relevant to your brand values and connecting them with factors that motivate your employees. The ‘sweet spot’ for employee engagement is where the personal and career goals and motivations of your employees collide with the strategic goals and objectives of your organisation.

The team at Diageo Australia manufactures  Johnnie Walker, Baileys and Bundaberg Rum among others. It maximizes staff engagement through opportunities to work overseas, extra leave each year and paid maternity and paternity leave – although the in-house bar open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights also helps. Diageo are also regulars on the BRW 50 Top Employers list.

Education plays an important role in improving employee engagement. Employees need the education, tools and resources to both embrace your brand and deliver on your brand promise.

When recruiting, over time an effective and clearly articulated EVP will become self-fulfilling. It will combine with your employment strategy and attract employees who already exhibit your brand values and behaviours and are seeking employment with you because they actively want to engage with your brand.

Can you afford not to engage?

Despite all the evidence, in the current business climate many organisations are focusing on increasing productivity and efficiency but neglecting employee engagement – something that actually delivers the competitive advantage they’re aiming for. By clearly defining your organisation’s EVP and actively engaging with your workforce you can retain your best employees and continue to attract strong talent.

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