Arniston Spa Hotel

Driving Employee Engagement .. What it takes

Employees want to know what management thinks & believes & how they plan to act – they also want to be encouraged to share their ideas & give input.

In follow-up to our September article, the next five articles will focus on specific elements that drive and support employee engagement. This article focuses on the extent to which senior management’s interest in their employees’ well-being has an impact on employee engagement.

Asked whether their management showed an interest in their well-being, only 42% of employees agreed it was true (refer to the exhibit below left); a third disagreed; while the remainder was mixed, suggesting they felt too distanced from management to even make the judgment call.

The exhibit below, which indicates how employees feel about various aspects of their company’s leadership, suggests some of the reasons for this mixed view. While the employees are reasonably positive about their management’s business savvy (with more than half agreeing their management is taking steps to ensure the company’s success), they are less optimistic on most other measures of leadership effectiveness. Note, in particular, the relatively lower favourability scores for management’s communication abilities, both in terms of shaping a vision for the future, and in being honest and forthright in their dealings with the workforce.

Effective employee communication is a critical challenge for organisations, especially large, complex ones. Research indicates that communication is a learned skill and one that traditionally hasn’t been a proper skill set among managers moving up through the ranks. In addition, many organisations confuse communication with the sharing of information, concentrating on disseminating basic facts rather than providing context, commentary and encouraging a two-way dialogue. Employees want to know what management thinks and believes, and how they plan to act – they also want to be encouraged to share their ideas and give input. It’s part of the environment of mutual trust, accountability and responsibility that’s important in engaging people effectively. Equally damaging is a culture characterised by perceived gaps between leadership’s words and its actions. Leaders are evaluated by employees more on what they do than on what they say. Nothing destroys employee trust and engagement faster than inconsistency, or worse, outright contradiction between words and actions.

HR-graphicKey lessons for senior management 

1.  Show genuine interest in your employees.
2.  Keep employees informed about where the business is going and be honest about how it’s performing.
3.  Communicate to create shared meaning and common understanding…don’t just ‘dump’ information on your employees.
4.  Ensure what you say as a leader and what you do as a leader is one and the same.

In the next edition, we will focus on how challenging work has an impact on supporting employee engagement.