Have you ever asked yourself,
just how many of the employees in my
organization are really engaged? If you
believe it is about half, you may actually
be overestimating the number.
According to a recent Gallup study on
employee engagement, about 54 percent of
employees in the United States are not
engaged and 17 percent are disengaged. Only
29 percent are engaged. Think about the
potential opportunity for human resources to
tackle this challenge. In this article we
present the business case for engagement you
can share with your leaders and a model for
creating and implementing a culture of
Definition of employee engagement
Employee engagement is defined in many ways
including, "we know it when we see it."
We prefer the following definitions:
Employees are engaged when many different
levels of employees are feeling fully
involved and enthusiastic about their jobs
and their organizations.
Engagement is the willingness and ability to
contribute to company success � the extent
to which employees put discretionary effort
into their work, in the form of extra time,
brainpower and energy" according to a Towers
The Business Case for Engagement
As human resource professionals, we have
intuitively known for years that an engaged
workforce provides many intangible benefits
and can be linked to retention. In the past
five years quantitative research studies
have provided HR with a compelling business
cases regarding the upsides of an engaged
workforce and the downsides of an unengaged
The following are two specific examples of
hard data linking an engaged workforce with
increased profitability and an unengaged
workforce with decreased profitability.
Highly engaged employees outperform their
disengaged colleagues by 20 to 28 percent
according to the Conference Board, 2006. A
2005 study by Serota Consulting of 28
multinational companies found that the share
prices of organizations with highly engaged
employees rose by an average of 16 percent
compared with an industry average of 6
There are also costs associated with a
disengaged workforce. Disengagement has been
found to cost between 243 to 270 billion
dollars due to low productivity of this
group according to a 2003 Gallup poll. In
one 2003 study by ISR, companies with low
levels of employee engagement found that
their net profit fell by 1.38 percent and
operating margin fell by 2.01 percent over a
three year period. Conversely, companies
with high levels of engagement found that
their operating margins rose by 3.74 percent
over a three year period.
The employee engagement model
We have developed a model that lays out the
roadmap to increase employee engagement. A
major point is our conviction that the best
way to increase employee engagement is to
focus on creating a culture of engagement.
We define culture as including the
practices, shared mindset and ethos of an
organization. Once the culture is created,
engagement becomes 'the way we do things
around here' and it does not have to be
recreated year after year.
On the left side of the model are the five
most important drivers of a culture of
engagement. We selected these five after
reviewing a wide range of research studies.
Each driver must be translated into
practical systems, practices and structures
that are embedded in the organization.
Most organizations do well in terms of
communication down from management to
employees. What are often missing are
mechanisms for employees to communicate up
on a regular basis. Relying on a suggestion
box and an annual employee survey just
doesn't do the job. Two helpful ways to
ensure the upward flow of feedback are
employee town meetings and quarterly, brief,
online surveys the capture the changing
concerns of employees.
Trust in leadership
Trust can be shattered instantly when
executives appear to suddenly change
directions or seem to break promises.
Building trust is a slower process.
Executives build trust by developing a clear
vision of the organizations' future and
communicating this to all employees.
Engagement levels rise when there is a
formal career development system that
includes components such as formal career
tracks, mobility systems to help employees
move about in the organization, and annual
Employees understand their role in success
Employees need to understand how their job
fits into the big picture and what they must
do more of and do differently to help the
business succeed. HR can help by clarifying
what are the competencies, the capacities
that this particular organizations needs to
grow and helping employees upgrade their
skills to match the needs of the future.
Shared decision making
When employees participate in making
decisions, they take feel more engaged in
the organization. Decision-making needs to
be pushed down to the lowest possible level.
There are dozens of tools and programs that
can help increase employee engagement. Here
are three programs they we have found
Coaching program for new hires
Since research has shown that the first day
at an organization is a key factor is
determining the level of employee commitment
and engagement in the years ahead, what
happens as a new hire comes on board is
critical. "Learning the Ropes" developed at
the MITRE Institute provides a new hire with
a coach for the first six weeks. The coach,
who is someone in the work group of the new
employee, spends time (usually lunch) with
the new employee on his or her first day and
then on a weekly basis over the next several
weeks. They become a valued guide through
the confusing maze of a new workplace.
A formal career conversation program ensures
that managers sit down with each of their
direct reports on a yearly basis to discuss
their career advancement and career plans.
These discussions can focus and inspire
employees and also managers can spot
employees whose job fit is not right before
they jump ship.
Large group meetings
The level of engagement skyrockets when 60
to 600 employees representing all parts of
an organization gather together to give
input to the organization, These meeting can
be used to review a vision, plan for the
future, review progress to date, or
introduce a new program such as an employee
engagement initiative. This is the best way
to reach all employees when there is an
important message or a shift in direction.
Measuring employee engagement
Most companies (75 percent) try to measure
employee engagement at this point in time.
In addition to the reported level of
engagement, organizations use measures such
as retention, organizational performance,
increased productivity, and financial
Overall, employee engagement is one of
today's most important business issues. It
is a place where we as HR are in a position
to make a real difference.
Whether your training need is small and focused, or
enterprise-wide, you can count of Frontline Learning to deliver.
For more than 20 years we have been helping organizations
achieve their business objectives with targeted training