What is employee engagement and why is it important?

4 min read  |   23 June, 2022   By Breathe Australia

A man is standing with his hands in the air with a large line of people behind him. They are all wearing suits and also have their hands in the air celebrating.

Business buzzwords start with the best of intentions. They begin by trying to convey a large idea in a succinct and concise way, but after multiple uses their definitions can become hazy and unclear.

Employee engagement is one such term that can be difficult to get a clear idea of. So what is it?

At its core employee engagement is a measure of how emotionally committed and aligned employees are with an organisation’s values and goals. It’s not necessarily how happy or satisfied your employees are, nor is it how well they’re performing in their role (although they are important factors).

When employees are engaged they’re encouraged to go the extra mile, they feel valued, are generally happier in their role and less likely to leave. Sounds great, right?

Let’s dive in and see how you can improve employee engagement and some of the benefits you could see.

Why is employee engagement important?

How to increase employee engagement

How do you prioritise employee engagement when short-staffed?

How to improve it

Why is employee engagement important?

It should be obvious, but it’s better to have engaged employees rather than disengaged ones. Low engagement can still result in good levels of productivity and employees hitting their targets, but it’s likely they won’t have that special something that sees them caring for the organisation as a whole.

For a small business to be successful, it's important to recruit proactive employees who use their initiative and want to excel in their roles rather than settle for being merely satisfactory, In order to attract and nurture these types of people, you need to offer far more than just a higher salary

It’s not about getting more out of your employees for the sake of it – it’s about having a trusted team who care about what they do and want the organisation to succeed. When employees are engaged they will be more likely to rise up to a challenge when times are tough, and think bigger when the going is good.

How to increase employee engagement

Before you begin anything it’s good to know where you’re starting from. An employee engagement survey can give you a raft of information that can be used to gauge where things currently stand and how they can be improved. Above all, it should measure how dedicated employees are to the organisation, its values and its direction.

As an SME your approach to your engagement survey should be tailored to you. Depending on your approach you could adopt a 1 to 10 scale or a more nuanced open ended question format, or a mix of both. Be sure to ask questions that will produce relevant and actionable answers, and allow space for employees to write any additional thoughts that may not have been covered by the survey – you may be surprised by what turns up.

With completed surveys in your hand, make a plan to use the information you didn’t have before.

For example:

  • Do your team feel restricted by their working hours? Consider adopting flexible working. Not only will it enable employees to have a better work/life balance it also shows you trust them and their ability, leading to a stronger culture and healthier wellbeing.
  • Do they feel isolated by colleagues or management? Not everything is solved by having beers on a Friday; but having social activities in the office will encourage people to meet others who they might not otherwise come across and forge stronger connections with those they already know.
  • Do your employees want different teas in the kitchen? It really could be as simple as this, but by getting the basics right you open yourself up to being an attentive and caring employer who wants everyone to succeed.

After an allotted period of time, conduct the same survey again – when you compare the results they will tell you where you have improved, by how much and the areas that still need a little more work.

How do you prioritise employee engagement when short-staffed?

If your team is short-staffed or bending under increased demand focusing on employee engagement could be the difference between surviving and thriving. Empowering people to make meaningful decisions is just one way that employees can see how much of a difference they’re making to the business – along with feeling trusted they’ll have a sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of their colleagues and the organisation as a whole.

How to improve it

Like any aspect of your business that you want to improve, it's important to implement it across the whole of your operations. In the case of employee engagement, that means keeping them engaged from the moment they enter the door on their first day, to the last day of their notice period.

When bringing a new member on board, making them feel welcome and giving them a sense of belonging will establish a good level of employee engagement from the very start. Ensure they know what company culture you are cultivating and what they can expect from a reward scheme.

Often overlooked and those employees who are moving to pastures new. Conducting an exit interview can provide you with rich, honest information about their experience with the business. It can be all too easy to dismiss a soon-to-be-leaver’s input as redundant when in fact it could help you to identify areas of improvement, and in doing so, reduce future employee turnover.

Disclaimer: This document contains general information and is also not intended to constitute legal or taxation advice. If you need legal or taxation advice, we recommend you speak to a qualified adviser.

Author: Breathe Australia

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