Why Employee Engagement Should Be Your Top Priority in 2020

More often than not, employee engagement gets completely disregarded as a business necessity, or reduced to a handful of gatherings and team-building activities spread out over the year at best. Come peak season for your business and suddenly you start wondering why everyone seems burned out and constantly calling in sick. 

What is Employee Engagement?

Before we attempt defining employee engagement, let’s start with what it isn’t. Employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction and can’t be measured by it. Employee satisfaction only indicates how content your employees are. Which means that a satisfied employee can be happy, do their job and meet deadlines, but they wouldn’t go the extra mile to do something just because it might result in more success for the company. A satisfied employee wouldn’t necessarily choose to work extra hours for a big project, or come up with an innovative idea that can make a huge change to the business.

On the other hand, engaged employees have a sense of personal attachment to their work and organization; they are motivated and able to give their best to help it succeed – which results in a series of tangible benefits for organization and individual alike.

Therefore it’s safe to define employee engagement as the extent to which employees feel proud and passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization and advocate it to clients, and put discretionary effort into their work.

Engagement is about creating opportunities for employees to connect with their colleagues, managers and wider organization. It is also about creating an environment where employees are motivated to want to connect with their work and really care about doing a good job...It is a concept that places flexibility, change and continuous improvement at the heart of what it means to be an employee and an employer in a twenty-first century workplace.” -Professor Katie Truss- 

Engagement and Performance

In a study where Gallup examined 23,910 business units and compared top quartile and bottom quartile financial performance with engagement scores, they found that: 

  • Those with engagement scores in the bottom quartile averaged 31 – 51% more employee turnover, 51% more inventory shrinkage and 62% more accidents. 
  • Those with engagement scores in the top quartile averaged 12% higher customer advocacy, 18% higher productivity and 12% higher profitability. 

In another global survey by Tower Perrins-ISR which included data gathered from over 664,000 employees from over 50 companies around the world, representing a range of industries and sizes. The survey compared the financial performance of organizations with a highly-engaged workforce to their peers with a less-engaged workforce, over a 12-month period. The results were shocking.

Most noticeable was that companies with high levels of employee engagement improved 19.2% in operating income while companies with low levels of employee engagement declined 32.7% during the study period. A huge 52% gap.

In addition, Standard Chartered Bank reported that they found that branches with a statistically significant increase in levels of employee engagement (0.2 or more on a scale of five) had a 16% higher profit margin growth than branches with decreased levels of employee engagement. 

Other Outcomes of Engagement 

Employee engagement impact doesn’t stop at that, in fact, our research revealed the following:
  • Engaged employees advocate their company or organization – 67% against only 3% of the disengaged. 78% would recommend their company’s products or services, against 13% of the disengaged, according to Gallup.
  • According to a report by ACCOR, an astounding 42% of employees would refuse to recommend their organization as an employer to friends and family!
  • Engaged employees take an average of 2.69 sick days per year; the disengaged take 6.19.
  • 70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of non- engaged employees say the same.
  • Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the organization than the disengaged. The cost of high turnover among disengaged employees is significant; some estimates put the cost of replacing each employee at equal to annual salary. 

The Age of the Engaged

And while the importance of employee engagement might not be news to most of us, we still tend to forget exactly how important is it, especially when things seem working fine as they are or the workforce isn't complaining much; a luxury that is about to disappear, now that a fiercely independent and highly unconventional generation is entering the workforce, aka Generation Z. 

For the short time that they have spent in the workplace (the oldest working Gen Zer is 25 years old this year), they have been starting waves of change when it comes to their expectations from work. As a recent survey says, Generation Z “view work as something you do, not a place you go”; which means an 8 hour emotionless desk job will become outdated - maybe even obsolete - sooner than we think. As a generation, Gen Z expect more flexibility, they expect work to enrich their lives rather than drain them, they expect more human connection at their everyday job, and they expect work to be an engaging experience.

So, even if not prioritizing employee engagement hasn’t been detrimental to your organization before, the same kind of indifference won’t go unnoticed anymore. 


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