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Unlocking employee engagement 

Kiran Reddy Pasham
talent

Employee engagement needs a new approach. organisations need to stop spending so much energy trying to convince disengaged employees to stay and instead focus on engaged employees – the workhorses and reliable people that drive businesses forward. Contributor Kiran Reddy Pasham, Co-Founder, President and Chief Architect – SplashBI.

Employee engagement is an item high on every HR and business leader’s agenda, with most companies currently trying to do everything they can to retain employees, reduce turnover and drive productivity. From pulse surveys and skills-building to reward and recognition schemes and real-time coaching, numerous initiatives are put in place in an attempt to make employee engagement scores rocket. Yet, statistics show that a staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are still not engaged. Organisations just can’t seem to make everyone happy. 

Focusing on the long-term
Frankly, disengaged employees have already checked out. They are not the colleagues that engaged employees want in the trenches with them day-in and day-out. Engaged workers are the people that other engaged workers and business leaders want onboard to keep the business growing, remain innovative and meet targets. However, instead of placing greater emphasis on these employees, most companies focus on why people might leave; monitoring flight risks, developing programmes, providing training opportunities and deploying technology to bolster engagement, all with the intent of improving morale, reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity. The majority of HR and business leaders believe that if we do more to create a better employee experience and support employees in their well-being and career paths whilst providing better managerial support, they’ll be more engaged. 

Unfortunately, the converse would appear true. A recent study by Gallup found that 63 percent of employees think they could easily get as good a job as they already have. Now, people leave jobs for a variety of reasons, but the fact that people are willing to walk out implies they are not fully committed to their job, or the company. An organisation might provide great pay, great benefits, great programmes, and great training that recognises great work or that can advance a person’s career. Yet if these schemes are in place and employees are still are disengaged, it might not be the organisation itself that has the problem. At which point it’s worth asking: what’s the cost of keeping workers who aren’t committed in terms of productivity and customer dissatisfaction? What if the fight for talent is actually hurting the bottom line? Consider that a disengaged employee can cost about 34 percent of a person’s salary in lost productivity. That’s about the same cost to replace someone. The figures speak for themselves: disengaged employees aren’t worth the cost of keeping them, let alone investing in trying to convince them to be more committed.

Rethinking employee engagement
Now consider data about engaged employees: companies with engaged employees outperform competitors by as much as 202 percent. It becomes pretty clear: organisations should stop focusing on disengaged employees and instead focus on engaged employees. They are committed, they want the organisation to succeed and they want to be surrounded by more “all-in” colleagues. Above all, they probably want to stop carrying all the burden of productivity. 

According to a study by the Workplace Research Foundation, highly engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to have higher productivity. Organisations need to do more to find these engaged employees and find a way to replicate that engagement at scale. Find them, understand them; hire and retain more people like them. The trick is actually gathering sufficient data around what makes them tick.

Identifying the ‘keepers’
Forget tracking disengaged employees; track engaged employees instead. The reality is that workforce analytics – made possible by enterprise technology that captures HR data – can help us find and evaluate engaged employees. It used to be the norm that collecting and analysing data required a small army of data scientists. There is now a myriad of tools to choose from, such as long-form surveys, pulse surveys, manager and coaching tools, and workforce data. 

But how can a manager using these advanced tools identify the employees that will make a positive contribution to the business? The omnipresent technology utilised by HR leaders can help measure and evaluate engagement, identify the top performing employees by the number of targets met or exceeded, manage the team’s headcount and reduce churn. Amongst countless other KPIs that matter to organisational success, retention is one of the best indicators of an engaged employee base; low flight risk and regret turnover – the number of high potential employees leaving the company – can clearly show the employees that are committed to their role, responsibilities and the organisation itself. 

These insights can be used to support engaged employees and hire others with their characteristics. In reality, good managers create engaged, high-performing employees. The more we focus on creating a positive working environment equipped with managers that foster an engaged work environment, the better we’ll become at feeding our talent pipeline and fostering a culture that collectively is more committed to the mission and better business outcomes.


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