Research outlines key factors that drive employee engagement.
By Gretchen Alarcon
“Engagement”— it’s an increasingly difﬁcult concept to deﬁne, but business leadership and HR professionals are constantly striving to ﬁnd new ways to improve employee engagement through technology, training, and employee-supervisor relationships. Yet despite their efforts, these measures are not always successful.
Although company leaders and HR professionals recognize the link between employee engagement and workplace productivity, the needs of the workforce differ from generation to generation and are changing the norms that HR departments have come to know. With the pressure on organizations to provide better beneﬁts and business culture, it has become more difﬁcult to understand what controls employee engagement in the modern working environment.
But there may be some strategies that help. The Global Engagement Study from Oracle and Kantar TNS reveals issues most important to employees’ engagement. In fact, the new survey ﬁnds that the modern workforce needs seven key components in order to operate at maximum efﬁciency and be fully engaged in the workplace culture.
The study takes into account key factors that play a part in optimizing employee engagement and ultimately driving increased performance and productivity to improve businesses bottom line. Key components include:
- Modern workforce experience. Employees expect the same level of technology they use in their personal lives in order to be successful in the workplace. Only 39 percent of respondents say their company uses collaborative, online tools for training and development. Some of the latest technology allows employees to access data about everything from personal development to customer success, enabling them to be more engaged and efficient in their role, especially during the onboarding process.
- Leadership. Only 44 percent of respondents say they have confidence in their company’s leadership. Junior-level employees often seek understanding, support, and guidance from their direct managers. The study also reveals that an approachable leader creates a better sense of employee well-being, which in turn, increases personal performance. This relationship is most important during the onboarding process because it sets the tone for the new hire’s perception of the company but is ultimately a long-term partnership. The survey found that only 47 percent of employees feel their leaders are approachable and transparent.
- Culture and values. Young people entering the workforce are placing increased importance on working for companies with values and beliefs that align with their own. The survey found that oftentimes, company culture and values that are similar to those of the employee trump pay scale during the hiring process. Only 38 percent of respondents claim their company supports causes that are important to them.
- Talent management and development. New employees decide in the first two weeks whether or not they plan on staying with a company long term, which makes the onboarding process extremely important. If a new hire feels they aren’t being set up to succeed, they are less likely to picture themselves growing with the company. Part of this success includes opportunities to be rewarded when performing well. Only 41 percent of employees feel there is equal opportunity for advancement in their workplace and that they are being compensated fairly.
- Performance. Constructive feedback is needed for employees to meet their business goals, feel rewarded, and improve professionally. The performance process is a combination of employee-manager conversations, formal evaluations, and peer feedback. The process, when done correctly, reinforces the organization’s values, maintains alignment between employee and company goals, and creates an encouraging workplace environment. Fifty-four percent of respondents believe that their last performance evaluation was fair.
- Role effectiveness. How important an employee feels in a company—how they perceive the company and whether they feel they are making an impact on the company’s goals—directly impacts an employee’s level of commitment to the position. In order to achieve this, employees need fair and standardized reviews and development processes. They want clear measures of expectations, recognition for a job well done, opportunities to excel, and insight into how they are performing. The findings in this area were surprising yet encouraging; 59 percent of respondents believe they can see the impact of their work on their customers, and 68 percent say that they know what is expected of them.
- Rewards. Rewards are strongly linked to performance because employees are more likely to perform well and have loyalty to their position if they feel they are being compensated fairly and have advancement opportunities. These findings indicate that the workforce is currently unsatisfied with how they are being rewarded. In fact, only 36 percent of respondents say they are rewarded based on their performance. Only 41 percent of workers feel they are being fairly compensated for their work. Because pay increases are extremely costly, companies should look into alternative, non-financial rewards, such as bonuses and increased time-off for excellent performance. Of all the reasons workers had for leaving a position, unfairness in pay and reward was the most common, with more than 30 percent feeling this way.
Creating a Culture of Engagement
Taking into account the key factors, organizations can take action to create a usable plan to increase employee engagement and productivity:
• Make the most of digital experiences
• Create a consistent, strong workplace culture
• Keep development goal-focused
• Create and maintain strong employee-manager relationships
• Reward good performance
• Keep roles business-centric and flexible to climate changes
• Give each employee equal advancement opportunities
• Prioritize employee well-being A main goal of HR and management is to retain top talent.
Through the onboarding process, organizations should strive to create a welcoming environment, provide employees with the development opportunities for them to succeed, and build strong working relationships. The modern workforce is more technologically-savvy and recognition-driven than ever and has come to expect more from its company leaders as a result. In order to stay competitive in the modern workforce, HR must realize what it takes to increase workplace engagement and make those necessary changes.
Gretchen Alarcon is vice president of human capital management strategy for Oracle.