Building Employee Engagement

Ron Jones

Almost every article on employee engagement refers to the importance of culture.

I have struggled at times with understanding how the culture of the organization is really defined, since so much of it seems to come from the approach adopted by line managers. We constantly claim that "people join organizations, but leave managers." This suggests that the interpretation and practice of the corporate culture adopted by managers is a key determinant in the day to day experience of staff and how they describe the culture. The actions and behavior of managers will influence each staff member’s description of the culture as they experience that behavior.

My work with a wide range of organizations suggests that there are really five areas of influence which ultimately determine the level of employee engagement:

  • Purpose and Direction
  • Values and Behavior
  • Consistent Treatment
  • Empathy and Responsiveness
  • Effective Communication

For each manager, there is a fundamental need to build a level of confidence and trust with staff around their commitment to these areas of influence.

This will mean taking action to do the following:

Purpose and Direction

Be clear about the purpose and direction of the organization. Managers should know what the business model is and how that impacts the area they manage. Knowing how each component part of the business links to others is vital in creating a sense of involvement and excitement. All companies have a story about what they do, their name, and their history. These should be told with passion.

Values and Behavior

Be clear about the values and behaviors. Managers need to model and demonstrate behaviors that clearly associate them as having a strong values base aligned to the organization’s core values and beliefs.

Consistent Treatment

Be consistent in your treatment of staff. All treatment of staff should reflect the values and be capable of a test of consistency: this particularly applies to issues such as to the types of behavior that are rewarded and those that are not.

Empathy and Responsiveness

Be engaged in the work issues that staff deal with or are concerned about. Managers need to enquire about what is happening and acknowledge and respond to the concerns of staff. Simple displays of recognition and communicating to staff about successes - and even failures – are important in demonstrating understanding and creating a strong sense of pride.

Effective Communication

Be open and authentic in your communication. Managers often need to be trained in how to be effective in their written and verbal communication. The ability to convey a message authentically is a vital feature of establishing and building trust.

There may be other equally important features of building and sustaining employee engagement, however these five areas have been the most significant in my experience.

The challenge within our organizations is to recognize the importance of these features. When we understand their significance, we can establish the basis on which we appoint those who demonstrate these characteristics into leadership roles.