Measuring ‘Employee Engagement'
Employee engagement refers to the bond employees have with their organizations and the amount of connectivity they have with their organizations' missions, according to CUNA's 2003-2004 CU Environmental Scan. Current thought is that employee engagement is a greater indicator of productivity than employee satisfaction. When employees really care about the business, they're more likely to go the extra mile. Numerous studies show that employee engagement is correlated to a company's bottom-line success.
How does America fare in terms of employee engagement? Studies by The Gallup Organization, Towers Perrin, and International Survey Research found that two-thirds of employees in Canada and U.S. are "moderately engaged." The remaining employees are divided almost equally among the "highly engaged" and "disengaged" categories. Disengaged employees are dangerous because disengagement is more contagious than engagement.
To measure employee engagement, companies need to ask for employee opinions and feedback in multiple ways. Standardized engagement metrics can be derived from employee opinion surveys. These can be used in conjunction with formal and informal meetings, employee focus groups, and manager/supervisor interviews, along with performance measures to continually assess progress toward employee engagement. Keep in mind, however, that asking for feedback and ignoring it is far worse than not asking at all.
Employees want to be engaged—several research studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that employees rank "the opportunity to do important work that gives a feeling of accomplishment" higher than pay as a prime motivator. But there's one downside to engaging employees—once they're engaged, they expect to be involved and given the chance to deliver. HBR studies also concluded that "those who cared most about their work were the most demoralized when they were thwarted from doing their best" by factors beyond their control such as role ambiguity, inadequate resources, and overwork.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, Kentucky (Toyota's largest U.S. plant) consistently has levels of employee engagement about 10% higher than the U.S. average. The plant's success is due to a corporate culture that supports individual creativity as well as teamwork, according to Pete Gritton, vice president of administration. Gritton says management must support employees and be committed to the success of both the individuals and the company itself. In addition, he states that management must cultivate employees' trust on a daily basis because it can vanish instantaneously through one careless act.
Corporate culture is an important component of employee engagement. A company's culture is made evident by its leaders' behavior. Communication styles, internally distributed messages, company celebrations, and how you recognize employees' efforts all define corporate culture. Make sure the culture at your credit union is one you want.
Direct your employee-engagement efforts at managers and nonmanagers alike. If managers aren't engaged, it's unlikely that employees will be responsive to any efforts to engage them. Leaders who make their employees feel cared for, valued, and heard invoke a culture of trust and credibility. Treating employees as allies and creating a sense of teamwork and emotional commitment increases morale and productivity. Invite feedback from staff instead of laying down the law. And instead of communicating via memos, explain policies and programs in person along with the reasons for why they were developed and implemented. Employees want to be informed about everything that affects them, good and bad.
Working Americans apparently aren't too crazy about the state of communication in the workplace. Just over half of employees say their employers try too hard to "spin" the truth instead of giving it to them straight, according to a Towers Perrin survey on employee communication. Even if your credit union has to do some cost cutting, it's to your advantage to share what you can with employees and prepare them for what's coming. Listening to your employees during tough times relieves their frustration, which in turn makes them more productive. And listening to employees can give you important information because employees know what's going on in their own areas.
Unfortunately, the longer employees stay with an organization, the less engaged they become, according to Gallup. It's therefore important for companies to continually foster employee engagement in the workplace. Strategies for employers to keep employees involved and engaged:
Employee engagement affects the bottom line because engaged employees deliver high-quality, committed service and they form work teams that produce high-quality results. And when engaged employees come into contact with the public, their commitment comes across and the people they're serving respond by becoming engaged in kind. If you take care of your employees, they'll take care of you and your members.
This article was prepared by the staff at the Point for Credit Union Research and Advice and is published online at http://thepoint.cuna.org/. Reprinted with permission.
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