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Employee engagement is one of those perennial issues that is never far from the executive radar. Yet despite this ongoing interest some questions remain. Is it a strategic business issue and, if so, in what way? How can it be accurately measured? Who owns employee engagement and how can HR best stake its claim to this ownership? What are the key drivers for effective engagement and what obstacles stand in the way?
Our latest global research report The Changing Nature of Employee Engagement offers some new insights into all of these issues and more.
The debate over whether employee engagement is considered important to decision makers within businesses now appears to be over. The results were pretty overwhelming, in fact: 88% of businesses surveyed believe employee engagement scores an eight, nine or ten out of ten in terms of its influence on the success of their organizations.
While it is great that companies recognise the importance of employee engagement to their business outcomes, the research also revealed that not enough is being done to measure this impact. Indeed, just 41% reported that they are able to link engagement levels to business performance. For employee engagement to be a success, its outcomes must be measured in terms that matter to business leaders (i.e. productivity and top line growth). Without this, employee engagement will never live up to its promise.
One important factor is that businesses should ensure that they have a clear and accountable ‘owner’ of employee engagement in place. Our research shows that HR is responsible for employee engagement in 40% of cases, with the broader business taking responsibility in 35% of organisations. In around 11% of businesses, meanwhile, a line of business owns employee engagement, while 5% of businesses admit that there is no real ownership of employee engagement at all.
For me this represents a huge opportunity for HR to demonstrate its value to the business by asserting their leadership of this important issue. HR can also help to make the business outcomes of employee engagement more transparent and more relevant to modern business practices.
In addition, HR should look to lead their organizations away from the traditional ways of measuring engagement, through outdated and discredited approaches such as annual employee surveys. Instead they should seize the opportunity to utilise modern cloud-based technology combined with the power of big data analytics to provide organizations a continuous, real-time view of employee engagement. In these days when social media offers immediate feedback in the form of ‘likes, comments and shares’ the demands from employees are for similar opportunities and experiences for engagement when at work.
Finally, this analysis also needs to include the all-important correlations between employee-engagement strategies and their effect on business outcomes. With this approach, not only will employee engagement be validated as a powerful strategy, but it will enable the HR function to really demonstrate its value-add credentials to the c-suite.