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An overview of employee engagement. Using techniques such as the seven pillars of engagement to encourage high levels of team engagement through positive attitudes and work ethic.
Table of contents
Employee Engagement 
Employee engagement describes the process of encouraging a positive attitude amongst employees in order to maximise their performance. Unlike performance related pay, for example, initiatives to improve employee engagement are not written in an employee’s contract. They instead aim to create an environment where employees can see the overall aim of the business, feel valued by their employers and feel comfortable to express their own views.
Nurturing this environment is an important task for senior management and HR departments, as a positive attitude amongst staff can increase levels of effort, output, innovation and positivity, among many other things. However, it is not simply up to them to create this atmosphere, the employees must also be willing to engage with this environment.
The MacLeod Report is the most comprehensive investigation on employee engagement to date, and had substantial conclusions. The authors believed there are four main drivers of employee engagement and they are leadership, engaging managers, voice and integrity. They also found improving engagement had a statistically reliable positive effect on overall business performance.
A lack of employee engagement can have significantly detrimental effects on all aspects of work and hence recognising it is vital to any strategy. Despite the attitude of the employees playing a part, the majority of this initiative must come from managers at the top.
A number of techniques for improving employee engagement have been attempted, and we have outlined a few of them below. Some may be more appropriate than others in your organisation and it is up to you, as a manager, to decide what will work best given your existing company culture and the characteristics of your team.
An employee opinion survey can be used to draw information out of employees about what they like and dislike about how the organisation currently works. The survey may discuss the organisation’s performance, processes, and impact on society or the employee’s working hours, pay structure and satisfaction levels. Employees may have to numerically rank different answers or say which they agree most with. Demographics can also be used to identify policies and procedures that affect different groups in different ways. The best way to analyse the data is to compare it to similar past surveys in the organisation, but comparisons with other companies may also be appropriate.
A poorly designed office costs UK business up to £135bn every year, due to productivity losses of up to 20% (Gensler, 2005). For this reason, workplace design has become an important factor in the level of employee engagement. It is tempting to save costs by opting for small and simple work spaces, but the lack of productivity that this can lead to may more than offset the lower costs. Investing in an innovative and exciting office design can help to enhance communication, motivation, energy and can help to recruit the best talent. It can also improve creativity and innovation within the office and reduce stress levels.
The Seven Pillars of Employee Engagement Self-Assessment is a tool used to assess how you, as a leader, are implementing actions and strategies to affect employee engagement. For each pillar, you should note down what actions you are taking to deliver this element and then use feedback and your own assessment for how this can be improved. The seven pillars are as follows (we have included an example of a question you may ask yourself for each one):
1. Showing commitment
- Do you have a clear and transparent employee engagement strategy?
2. Getting to the front line
- How do you execute this strategy directly with your team members?
3. Loudhailers to conversations
- What language and communication techniques do you use to communicate with your team?
4. The reservoir of wellbeing
- Do you equally reward strong performance and discipline and advise weak performers?
5. Bring back the manager
- Is there enough support for managers to be in a position to engage their employees?
6. Harnessing talent
- Is your organisation’s talent management strategy harnessing talent potential in your team?
7. Creating consequences
- Do engagement assessments exist to measure current standards?
Gensler. (2005). These Four Walls: The Real British Office. Gensler, London, 2005.
MacLeod, D. Clarke N. (2009). Engaging for Success: Enhancing performance through employee engagement. London: BIS
MacLeod, D and Christopher B. (2008). The Extra Mile. Harlow, England: Prentice Hall /Pearson Education, 2008. Print.
Purcell, J. (2003). Understanding The People and Performance Link. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2003. Print.
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