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How to Build Employee Engagement

people working in conference room of modern office space

There are several parameters to engagement:

  • Intrinsic interest (activism, curiosity, etc.).
  • External rewards (salary, perks, etc. Extrinsic rewards can be tangible or intangible–but they are not related to the content of the work).
  • Social engagement (productive and intimate social relationships).
  • Psychological identity with the business culture (a feeling of identity with what the organizations stand for).

Improving any of the parameters will increase employee engagement.

Think of your company as a nation. Your employees are citizens. What your business wants is almost like patriotic devotion. You can power up the citizenship by giving employees a sense that they are working as a team for an important enterprise, and that their organization has an important place in the community of organizations.

The State of Employee Engagement

Attitude studies from Gallup (State of the Global Workplace report) say that only 15 percent of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs. Gallup claims that this means employees are not engaged in their jobs and workplaces at any level. This is not really demonstrated by the survey. Although a high percentage of actual jobs are just not intellectually or emotionally challenging, many employees are engaged in their workplaces or the social environment that contributes to their work. A study by Snaplogic indicates that 90 percent of employees are in “boring and repetitive tasks” (even in the “high tech” sector). There is no doubt that the majority of employees have jobs that do not generate intrinsic rewards. This state of employment is inevitable and always has been since the industrial revolution started. People generally work for extrinsic rewards like income in jobs which they would not choose if they had a choice. Extrinsic rewards like salary are the reason they go to work and one of the main forces that keep organizations functioning.

However, a sizable percentage of the workforce is actually engaged in their workday, get their assignments done completely happily, and feel themselves to be at home in the work environment, in spite of what statistics say.

How Do Organizations Build Employee Engagement?

In his book, The Truth about Employee Engagement, Patrick Lencioni lays out the general principle that engagement depends on cordial relations between the employee and his direct manager or supervisor. “Anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement [his term]” are three main causes of lack of engagement.

  • The most powerful employee engagement comes when managers make a commitment toward recognizing the contributions of their employees and make it known that each employee is contributing substantially toward organizational goals.

Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and the level of their personal contributions. They can’t be engaged if their success depends on the whims or opinions of others, especially if those making judgments are not seen as allies.

Dr. Camille Preston puts it this way:

“My personal mantra…has been that I want to do work that I love [intrinsic rewards], from places I love [psychological identification], and with people I enjoy [social engagement]…”

  • Dr. Preston advises organizations to foster meaningful and close work relationships.

According to the Harvard Business Review. Close work friendships boost employee satisfaction (which is a core part of work engagement) by 50 percent.

  • Team building is an important method of increasing employee engagement. The most potent social rewards come from people with whom an employee is engaged in a common enterprise in a cooperative way.

Employees who feel engaged in a strong corporate culture are more engaged in their work. Corporate culture is the personality of a workplace. It gives employees a body of value statements that they can believe in and a sense of mission that they can see as important for themselves. Corporate culture defines roles in a workplace. It defines identities. It defines membership, the symbols of belonging, and tradition within the organization which drive people together.

  • Employees tend to enjoy work when their needs and values are consistent with those at the workplace.

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