What’s the difference between employees who simply show up for work and those who contribute all they can to their organization?
The former can hinder a company’s ability to compete in the digital workplace, and can cost greatly in terms of recruiting, onboarding, training, reputation, and a multitude of other factors. The latter can enable organizations to innovate, thrive, and succeed in an increasingly competitive digital business world.
The greatest difference between the two groups is their size—according to the ADP Research Institute, 84 percent of workers globally are simply “coming to work,” while just 16 percent are fully engaged and contribute all they can to their organization.
84 percent of workers globally are simply “coming to work,” while just 16 percent are fully engaged and contribute all they can to their organizationADP Research Institute
Employee engagement is critical to an organization’s success. It’s a positive state of mind characterized by “vigor, dedication and absorption.” In particular:
- VIGOR is the willingness to invest yourself entirely into work and refers to high levels of conscientiousness, persistence, energy, and mental toughness.
- DEDICATION is a strong connection to your work and a sense of significance, pride, enthusiasm, and challenge.
- ABSORPTION is being involved deeply in your work, so much so that time passes quickly and disconnecting from work can become difficult.
Numerous studies have indicated a solid relationship between employee engagement and performance, profitability, employee turnover, safety, and customer satisfaction. In addition, researchers have found strong links between employee engagement and job satisfaction, positive job attitudes, and organizational commitment.
The challenge for organizations today is to avoid getting stuck on why employees are not engaged and instead focus on how to prioritize and increase engagement. Here are three suggestions:
1. ENCOURAGE TEAMWORK WITH TOOLS & TRAINING: According to the ADP report, employees who are part of a team are more than twice as likely to be fully engaged than those who are not. But effective teamwork does not usually happen organically—it requires strategy and support. For example, if your organization has implemented a collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams, you cannot sit idly by hoping employees will use it. You must tell them—convince them—why they should use an app like Teams and how it can streamline group work. You must also ensure they know how to use it by providing relevant, ongoing training and support.
2. LISTEN & RESPOND: Only 26 percent of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work, according to research by Gallup. For managers, that means you should not only listen to employees, but also take swift action to make changes.
3. PRIORITIZE CULTURE CHANGE: One of the most difficult challenges for organizations is letting go of the idea that employee engagement is something that can be implemented or switched on. Increasing engagement is part of a larger, ongoing effort—a complete change in technology and how people use it to get their work done.
Companies must adopt a change management approach that’s focused on motivating change at the individual level. For example, Prosci’s ADKAR model—which figures prominently into Vitalyst’s change management services—focuses on the five stages people experience when making a change:
- Awareness of the need to change
- Desire to participate and support the change
- Knowledge about how to change
- Ability to implement new skills and behaviors
- Reinforcement to make the change stick
Change initiatives are more successful when they are approached strategically, and increased engagement is a natural result of successful change efforts.
In the race to become digital, agile and innovative, many organizations overlook one of the key drivers of success—the employee. And without a focus on employee engagement, initiatives are more likely to fail—no matter how much advanced technology an organization has implemented.
1. Schaufeli, W. B., & Bakker, A. B. (2004). “Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: A multi-sample study” (PDF). Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 293–315.
2. “The Global Study of Engagement,” ADP Research Institute, 2018
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.