Unlocking the Value of Employee Engagement

December 30, 2015 at 12:00 PM / by Tonya Blackmore

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Earlier this year I was asked to speak at a conference on the topic of Attracting and Retaining Staff. Now, anyone who knows me would say that when I present at a conference, I like to feel passionate about the topic and to leave the audience with something different to think about. So after many hours of mind-cleansing time on my bike, I came to the conclusion that focusing on attracting and retaining staff is only half of the story. To truly drive organizational success, leaders need to sharpen their focus on attracting and retaining the ‘right’ staff and then cultivating an environment that maximizes employee engagement. I know what you are thinking, no earth shattering message there, but stay with me. 

From my experience I’ve observed two areas where companies continue to miss the mark on engagement; confusion around defining engagement and determining the most reliable measures of engagement. 

DEFINING ENGAGEMENT

Employee engagement can be best defined as the discretionary effort an employee contributes over and above what is required. These are people who consistently push boundaries or go the extra mile for the organization and if you have enough of them, they can act as fuel to set your organization apart. But companies often define engagement too broadly and overstate their engagement levels. This results from trying to fit employees into two categories: employees who are engaged and employees who are not engaged. The downfall of this approach is you fail to recognize a third category of people who are happy but not engaged. These are people who like their work but they don’t place work ahead of other parts of their life so they are unlikely to invest in discretionary effort. If you include these employees in your category of engaged, you will overstate engagement levels and perform below your maximum potential.

RELIABLE MEASURES

This leads us to consider the most reliable measures of engagement - what are they? A common model used to assess employee engagement focuses on measuring three areas: what employees say, whether they stay and how they strive. It’s my view that how a person strives is the best indicator of engagement because as mentioned above, people can say positive things about a company but not be engaged.  People can also stay with an organization but not be engaged. Many people stay because of pay, benefits, proximity to home, hours of work etc. So stay power does not always correlate with engagement

This doesn’t mean that you should ignore what people say and whether they stay. These can be great indicators if engagement levels are moving in the wrong direction so they are important measures to track.

Starting a new year is often a time of reflection and refinement, so as you turn the calendar to 2016, I challenge you to the following task. Split your page into three columns: engaged, happy but not engaged and not engaged. Allocate each member on your team to one of these three columns and I think you’ll be surprised by how many (or how few) would be considered truly engaged. Then repeat this exercise at the end of 2016 to see how your team has shifted. Whether you're working in a big corporate environment such as a large insurer, running your own MGA shop or leading your own team of advisors this exercise should be apply perfectly in all scenarios. 

One thing that has been proven is the positive relationship between business performance and engagement levels so the evidence is clear that people are the power of your organization. Now it’s up to you to go unlock it!

Curious to learn about what APEXA has planned for 2016? Find out here. 

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Topics: Industry Collaboration

Tonya Blackmore

Written by Tonya Blackmore

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