“I am helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President.”
– The janitor at NASA (1962) upon JFK asking him what his job is
The term employee engagement first appeared as a management theory in the 1990s, gained popularity in the 2000s, became an established practice around the same time and is now a prominent concept primarily in the area of HR management and internal communications. However, the definition itself remains controversial, as the current term is based on many earlier concepts such as work morale or job satisfaction, but has also become synonymous for “employee experience” and “employee satisfaction”.
Now, the question arises: What exactly defines modern employee
engagement in 2019? And are there certain factors that can be used to characterize the term today?
As you might have guessed, same as in the 90s, we still have no clear answer to this question. But what we do have nowadays are intricate studies based on surveys that specialize in this topic.
Glint, a leading American company in the field of employee engagement, published a study in the first quarter of this year that presents the current state of modern employee engagement in a compact and informative way. In this study, several HR experts were presented with different definitions of employee engagement, asking them to tick the right one. More than three quarters of the HR experts agreed that employee engagement requires both an emotional element as well as the willingness to give 100% at work. In general, a variety of definitions for one concept is not necessarily a bad thing. It just indicates that the concept, in this case employee engagement, remains flexible and is continuing to evolve.
But where has this flexibility led us? How does modern employee engagement look in 2019? In this respect, the study emphasizes 4 findings to which I want to draw special attention here.
1. Employee Engagement is still Expanding
Only 44% of the respondents stated that their employees give their all at work and that most companies need assistance in this area.
Most respondents believe that less than 70% of their employees are engaged. This is particularly noticeable in medium-sized companies, where only 14% said that more than 70% of their employees were engaged.
In small companies, however, the data improves; in fact, over 40% of all respondents from small companies said that 70% of their colleagues were engaged.
“A company must be big enough to work properly, but small enough to adapt quickly”.
– Peter Thiel
The high level of engagement in small companies can have a variety of reasons. The obvious reason for this could be that smaller companies are more agile and can address the wishes of their employees more effectively. In addition, many employees often identify better with small companies and can sometimes even shape them in their interest.
2. The Influence of Managers on Modern Employee Engagement
Around 80% of respondents believe that engagement is closely linked to trust in leadership and the relationship with one’s direct supervisor. However, the importance of these two factors should not overshadow other factors such as a sense of purpose and organisational culture, both of which are seen by about three-quarters of respondents as closely related to engagement.
Interestingly, although managers and supervisors have the primary responsibility for improving employee engagement, it can be said that top managers have roughly the same responsibility. Not only do employees want to feel that they themselves are making progress in the company, they also need to feel that their CEOs are leading their company as a whole in the right direction.
It can therefore be said that a very large proportion of employee engagement rests on the shoulders of managers, but one should never assume that other factors contribute nothing to this. On the contrary, 70% of the surveyed respondents also stated that their colleagues exert a high to very high influence on employee commitment, which in turn presupposes that a good culture is indispensable within the company.
3. Measuring Modern Employee Engagement
The study suggests that there are several methods which promise an increase in employee engagement. In particular, the regular measurement of satisfaction, more recognition for employees, better career opportunities and more HR participation are the most important factors in promoting modern employee engagement, according to Glint. At this point I would like to focus on the relevance of the regular measurement of satisfaction, because healthy communication between employees and management forms the basis for the other methods of engagement mentioned above. Surveys are the ideal medium for this.
Employee surveys have been used effectively (and ineffectively) since the 1930s. If used correctly, an annual survey can be a very useful tool for the organization. However, it is often attempted to collect too much data at once. In practice, it often takes months to create and analyze the surveys.
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The long time interval between survey, analysis and the subsequent introduction of solution-oriented measures often leads to problems. A long interval between survey creation and analysis can lead to the issue that the data being analyzed is no longer up to date. If there is a long time interval between the survey and the introduction of the above measures, employees may be concerned about how serious management is taking the problems the survey aims to address.
What is the best way to tackle this issue? According to the study, just over half (54%) of the surveyed companies carry out employee surveys, most of which (72%) are large companies with over 1000 employees. The most popular method is still the traditional annual survey, however, a lot of companies are now shifting strategies and trying out a variety of different approaches, such as weekly/monthly pulse surveys and 360 degree surveys. In general, the use of different forms of surveys can provide a more accurate picture of the situation, by providing multiple points of perspective. However, it can also be exhausting for employees to constantly have to complete a barrage of surveys, which would have the exact opposite effect of what the surveys intend. The trick with regularly recurring surveys is to ask the questions simply but precisely and to design the survey in such a way that it can be completed quickly and effortlessly.
In recent years, there have been more and more reports about how companies are moving towards more frequent methods of measuring employee engagement. The reason for this trend is that employee engagement is not a constant that can be captured as a snapshot once a year, but rather changes individually for each person over said timeframe, making pulse surveys more attractive to a lot of companies
It is still the case that modern employee engagement has a high impact on the success of a company and vice versa. 90% of all respondents believe that there is a direct link between company success and employee engagement.
The next question, of course, would be: How do you increase engagement in your company? This process takes place in different ways and can range from factors such as good mentoring to psychological safety at the workplace. Each company must find out for itself which concrete measures are most effective for them. If you are interested in finding out more about this topic and want to consult an expert who can assist you in identifying and facilitating the needs of your company, please feel free to contact our charming sales team here.