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Opinion: Engage employees to improve well-being

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For most organizations, success is dependent on more than just employees physically being present. Multiple studies have found that employees passionate about their jobs and their employers are in the minority.

These findings also confirm the direct correlation between employee engagement and business results. Organizations with highly engaged team members experience greater productivity, higher profitability and more satisfied clients. 

Organizations define engagement in many ways. One definition of engagement is the extent to which people enjoy and believe in what they do and they feel valued for doing it.

Of engaged employees, 81 percent are likely to stay with their company, as opposed to 23 percent of those who are disengaged, according to a 2013 Employee Engagement Research Update from BlessingWhite, a division of GP Strategies Corp.

One of the single highest-rated drivers of employee engagement is whether workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their well-being. However, only 40 percent of workers reportedly believe that to be true, according to Gallup Inc.’s 2010 State of the Global Workplace study. Does that mean 60 percent of leaders don’t care about employees? Based on my experience, I believe most leaders simply need help turning their good intentions into actions that increase engagement and, ultimately, profitability. 

Leaders can influence employee engagement by taking action in three areas: meaningful work, a positive environment and individual value. 

Meaningful work
Meaningful work is influenced by purpose, information and empowerment. It may be impacted by employees understanding exactly what to do and why; having timely access to information and decisions that affect their work; and having influence over decisions and actions to achieve outcomes.

Leaders should ensure their team has the resources needed to do their jobs, discuss how positions contribute to the organization’s success, immediately share information that impacts their team and allow people to have control over how they perform their work.

Positive environment
A positive environment is shaped by respect, collaboration and trust. That might mean showing consideration for others and their contributions; working together harmoniously to achieve goals in a timely manner; and having confidence that people will keep commitments, be honest and treat others fairly.

In this setting, leaders support differing ideas and opinions; admit when they’ve made a mistake; provide a process for sharing information and resources; create an environment in which people feel comfortable asking for help; model respectful behavior; and genuinely demonstrate care about people’s success and well-being. 

Individual value
Individual value is supported by development opportunities to expand an employee’s capabilities and by recognizing people for their efforts and achievements. Leaders impact individual value by providing ongoing feedback and coaching; considering individuals’ skills and interests when delegating work; sharing individual and team accomplishments with senior leaders; working with people to develop their skills through training, stretch assignments and informal learning; and expressing appreciation in ways that are meaningful to the individual.

At least 75 percent of voluntary turnover can be influenced by managers, according to a Gallup article, “Turning Around Employee Turnover.”

Managers should have engagement conversations with their direct reports to better understand what matters most to them at work and then take proactive steps to provide it as much as possible. 

In the end, employee engagement is about getting to the heart of what matters most to people. When people say that what they do matters, that they have a great place to work, and that they are appreciated and encouraged to grow, we are on the right track as leaders.

Karen Shannon, human resources and business consulting director for Ollis/Akers/Arney, works with clients worldwide on key business and HR strategies. She can be reached at karen.shannon@ollisaa.com.

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