February 28, 2018 by Tom Lynch

Dare to care: How employee engagement and relationships can lead to better results

Engagement is one of our industry’s biggest buzzwords. Build engagement, engage with your audiences, drive traffic with engaging content. The term is used for everything from describing consumer behaviour, to defining communication strategies, to designating metrics for marketing tactics — and it continues to take on new meanings.

Recently, many savvy organizations have shifted their focus internally to employee engagement and the ways that it can be a driver of both individual satisfaction and business success. Let’s take a closer look at what’s behind the trend.

What is employee engagement?

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
– Phil Jackson

Employee engagement can be defined as the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals. Employees who are considered engaged are fully connected to their work, and motivated both by a personal sense of purpose and by the feeling that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

This may seem like a lot to ask all at once, but there are simple areas to focus on to increase employee engagement without having to completely transform your workplace culture.

Personal relationships and performance

It almost seems counter-intuitive to suggest that there is a human element lacking in the workforce, and yet that’s exactly the case. For generations, we were taught to remove emotions from the business equation in order to improve the bottom-line. But now faced with only 15 per cent of the worldwide workforce reporting to Gallup that they are engaged in their job, maybe it’s time to reconsider.

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant reflects on the current climate of office culture in his New York Times column:

Once, work was a major source of friendships. We took our families to company picnics and invited our colleagues over for dinner. Now, work is a more transactional place. We go to the office to be efficient, not to form bonds. We have plenty of productive conversations but fewer meaningful relationships.

Interestingly, research suggests that having a friend(s) at work is one of the most important parts of being engaged and satisfied with your career. Statistics show that close work friendships boost employee satisfactions by 50 per cent and companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20 per cent.

Balancing work-life and belonging

According to the Harvard Business Review, workplace relationships also help create a common sense of purpose and ownership, and the mentality among employees that they are “in it together”.

Per Maslow’s hierarchy, love and belonging is the third fundamental human need, after safety and physiological needs. And yet, despite the long hours spent at work, many people still don’t feel like they belong there. Could it be having the opposite effect?

To help boost engagement, managers should consider encouraging their employees to step away from their work and decompress on a regular basis to ensure they retain positive feelings about their job. It’s not only unproductive to overwork, but it can also lead to disengaged employees acting as company detractors who wear on other’s emotions.

There are also clear-cut benefits on loyalty. Research by The Muse reveals that engaged employees were 87 per cent less likely to leave their organizations than their disengaged counterparts.

Coaching and the customer experience

Receiving continuous feedback is also essential to employee engagement. Research conducted by Office Vibe shows that as of February 2018, 83 per cent of employees highly value receiving feedback, regardless if it’s positive or negative, and 43 per cent of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week.

Additionally, the research indicates that over 80 per cent of employees think it’s better to give someone praise than to give them a gift — showing how much they value it. And this extends to feedback from peers as well, with 82% reporting that they highly value their colleague’s input.

This kind of coaching leads employees to feel more accountability and pride in their job performance, which in turn has a tangible impact on the customer experience. In fact, studies show that businesses with highly engaged employees see a 10 per cent increase in customer ratings and a 20 per cent increase in sales.

Looking for new ways to increase employee engagement? We have a long history of putting people at the heart of everything we do — both within our own team and with our clients’ workforce. We’d love to show you how we can help!