How to create an actively engaged work force

Mark Matuscak, President and CEO, Benefitdecisions, Inc.

When employees understand where their company is headed and the role that they play in the process, they are naturally motivated to do a better job.

“Actively engaged employees become emotionally vested in an organization and are willing to go the extra mile to get their jobs done well,” says Mark Matuscak, President and CEO of Benefitdecisions, Inc. “Actively engaged employees thoroughly understand the strategic goals of the organization and where they fit into those goals.”

However, studies indicate that approximately 27 percent of employees are actively engaged with their employer, while 60 percent are ambivalent toward their jobs and 13 percent are actively disengaged in the workplace, Matuscak says.

Smart Business spoke with Matuscak about how to promote  employee engagement and the ensuing benefits of increasing the number of actively engaged employees.

What is employee engagement, and how does it differ from employee satisfaction?

Employee satisfaction is about whether people are happy to get up and go to work. Engagement goes well beyond that and addresses whether employees are aligned with the mission of the company and are living it. Employee engagement measures the willingness of an employee to proactively apply extra effort toward the goals and mission of the company. It measures the emotional commitment of an employee toward his or her employer.

Actively engaged employees become ambassadors of your brand and your mission.  They have the ability to transform the customers they interact with into your brand ambassadors.

How can companies measure employee engagement?

There are very sophisticated measuring tools, but there are also basic questions that companies can ask their employees on a periodic basis to determine their level of  engagement. Questions should include:

  • How valued do you feel?
  • Can you see the next step in your career here?
  • Do you believe in the company’s mission?
  • Do you see yourself staying here?
  • Would you recommend this company to your friends and family?

There are also certain characteristics of people at each engagement level that an organization can assess. For instance, those who are always willing to work past normal hours without having to be asked and without complaint are actively engaged. An ambivalent employee is one you have to ask to work late to get the job done and that person, begrudgingly, might be willing to do so. Actively disengaged employees watch the clock and are ready to punch out at 4:59 and 59 seconds.

As a manager, observing the actions and behaviors of your employees is also a powerful method to use in conjunction with employee surveys.

What are the drivers of employee engagement?

There are four key drivers for actively engaging employees: believing that the company has a purpose-driven mission and that it is working toward that mission; trusting in the company and the leadership; feeling valued; and having confidence in the company’s leadership while believing that they are leading with the company values toward the corporate mission.

It’s interesting to note that none of the studies on employee engagement show compensation as one of the top drivers of employee engagement; earning the emotional commitment of an employee is about much more than money.

How do you create a mission that will motivate your employees?

Creating a mission that will actively engage your employees and customers is essentially explaining why your company is in business. What is the intrinsic reason or belief that drives your organization? Most employees can easily answer what their company does and even how it does what it does, but answering why can be difficult.

The most powerful thing you can do for employees is to identify why you do what you do and clearly communicate it throughout the organization. You know you have done this well when you can ask any employee for the mission of the organization and you receive the same answer from each person. Your employees will know that they stand for something and that they have a purpose-driven career.

What are the returns on investing in employee engagement?

There exists a strong correlation between high levels of employee engagement and all of the traditional metrics associated with an organization — sales, service, quality, safety, retention, profit and shareholder returns. In organizations that have actively engaged employees, studies have shown that there can be as much as five times higher  total shareholder return over a five-year period than in companies with lower engagement. Studies also show faster revenue growth and nearly twice the customer loyalty.

At an individual level, actively engaged employees provide  better customer interactions, higher individual customer loyalty, and increased sales and productivity, and they report greater overall job satisfaction. This serves to  create a cycle that feeds on itself, to everybody’s benefit. High performance becomes contagious in the right environment. Such a culture attracts those who want to be actively engaged with their careers and tends to select  out those who are actively disengaged.

It is worth the investment in taking actions that make employees feel a valued part of an organization. Invest in them personally, invest in their career development and invest in their performance management. Make the effort to get to know them and recognize their contributions.

Maximizing employee engagement isn’t easy and it isn’t automatic, but the dividends it pays  are very much worth the investment.

Mark Matuscak is President and CEO of Benefitdecisions, Inc. Reach him at (312) 376-0431 or [email protected]

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