Why midsize companies need engaged employees

Only 30 percent of the 100 million Americans who work full time are actively engaged at work, according to a recent Gallup survey. Another 50 percent are uninspired, while 20 percent “simply roam the halls spreading discontent.”

Those uninspired and disengaged employees have significant negative impact on an organization, says Midge Streeter, a talent management consultant at Sequent.

“All of the information coming out of HR research is telling the same story, and there’s more attention being given to employee engagement now than at any time in the past 20 years,” Streeter says.

Smart Business spoke with Streeter about how having engaged employees boosts the bottom line, and why engagement is particularly important for midsize companies.

What does it mean to be an engaged employee?

Engaged employees are very passionate about their employer relationship and their job. They display a high sense of commitment and willingness to go the extra mile, which translates into the service they provide to customers. A disengaged employee has no commitment to the company, let alone its customers.

All employees have a certain amount of time to manage as they see fit. Employee engagement is about leveraging that discretionary time for the greater good of the organization.

How can a company improve engagement?

There is no magic bullet; leadership has many options available. If you want to move the needle, a good first step is to assess your starting point through an employee engagement or culture survey. Just creating the survey creates low-hanging fruit because engagement increases when employees see that leadership is asking for their feedback.

Using survey results, create an action plan to increase employee engagement. Depending on the results, you might focus on leadership development, or coaching and management training.

There are some common themes in survey results. One is related to a lack of meaningful training for employees to grow their careers. Another is a lack of respect, usually stemming from employees feeling that they’re being micromanaged by someone who doesn’t allow them to make decisions. There also can be a lack of connection to company goals — if employees understand those goals, they can better align actions to help meet them.

How do you measure the success of action plans?

Go back after six or 12 months and re-administer the survey to see if the action plan has been successful in increasing employee engagement.

At the same time, look at business indicators such as sales and customer satisfaction to see how you’re progressing because of increased engagement. Another indicator might be based on innovation and how long it takes to deploy a new product or service. There are various business indicators that can be used in relationship with employee engagement to see how they’re connected. If the indicators show you’re not getting the anticipated result, that tells you that the action plan needs to be reworked.

To get the most ROI from engagement efforts, validate the performance indicator results with an Employee Engagement certification audit. That can help brand your organization as an employer of choice.

Why is employee engagement particularly important for small and midsize companies?

As we come out of the recession and the job market improves, turnover is expected in the next 12 to 24 months. That can have a significant impact on a midsize business, especially when key stakeholders leave and take a lot of intellectual capital with them. Midsize companies need to focus on engagement to retain those key employees.
That can be a challenge because leaders in small and midsize organizations wear many hats, and may not have expertise in-house that can help.

Companies that get the most bang for their buck understand that employee engagement drives overall organizational performance. That’s why it’s critical to focus on business performance indicators — you will move the needle on them if you improve your employee engagement score.

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