9-1: Employee Engagement: When a Job is Not Just a Job
For some, a job is simply a means to earn a paycheck and nothing more. The work may be dull and unrewarding and the individual may feel unsupported or that their hard work has gone unnoticed. They have few, if any, work friends, and there is little training opportunity offered by the company for professional development. They feel their job is just an effective way to throw away eight hours of their daily life (and maybe a bit of their happiness too).
This is not what a professional pictures when imagining their dream job. They want to do something meaningful - whether that be positive changes in their field of interest, community, or the world. They do not dread going to the office every day. Rather, they wake up energized in anticipation of what they will accomplish. They feel connected to their coworkers and managers and together, they all work towards a shared goal that brings value to both their consumers and the employees that worked so hard to make it all happen. When employees can feel good about what they are doing and are supported (yet challenged) throughout that process, a simple nine to five job gains so much more meaning - leading to happier, more engaged and productive employees that are here for the long haul.
There are three main types of employee engagement: engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged. Engaged employees are the ideal goal to strive for. They are hardworking, find value in their work, and have a positive attitude. Conversely, disengaged employees are simply there to make money. They have no real passion and do not make an attempt to go above and beyond expectations or take on special projects. Actively disengaged employees are clearly unhappy with their job and let others know about it. They put forth the bare minimum of effort to get by without getting fired. These types can be thought of in terms of characters from The Office. Dwight is an engaged employee who feels great pride about the work he does and always attempts to take on increased responsibility. Jim is only in it for the money, so he is a disengaged employee. Stanley is an actively disengaged employee because he regularly complains about hating his job and completes minimal work duties, opting for doing crossword puzzles instead.
Employee engagement is a critical component that determines productivity and thus business success. While they are related,engagement is not the same as satisfaction. Engagement is more about whether the individual is working towards company goals while satisfaction is related to personal happiness. Productivity and satisfaction are both components in determining the level to which a professional is engaged. Additionally, a company’s culture and the support it provides have a large impact on the engagement of its employees.
Here are a few ways HR managers can work to improve employee engagement.
Employees have informed opinions, so listen to them! Conducting regular surveys and interviews throughout the year gives professionals a way to share their thoughts openly. This is a great way to gauge what initiatives are working to motivate employees and which are not. Suggestions made by employees for future changes will likely be successful if implemented as they are coming straight from the source.
Reep the rewards of sound investments. Employees are more likely to be engaged with a company that actively works to better its employees. Investing in human capital through training programs and seminars is a great way to help professionals gain knowledge and develop new skills that they can utilize in their work. In this way, the company benefits by empowering its employees with knowledge to become more engaged and thus more productive and contribute to achieving company goals.
Did someone say cornhole? Engagement is more than just how effective an individual is regarding their job duties - it can be fun too. Planning regular social events that happen outside of work hours allow employees to socialize and form friendships that may have otherwise not been made. Employees that form relationships with their coworkers then become more invested in the work they do.
Everyone likes to know that their hard work is appreciated. Showing genuine appreciation for the effort employees put in will not go unnoticed. In fact, the ‘louder’ this recognition can be, the better. In a SHRM article, Shelisa Gautreaux, the senior director of corporate HR at Yum! was quoted as saying “people respond to being appreciated” and that recognition is an effective “booster shot” for engagement. Publicly recognizing employees for excellence bolsters their confidence and provides a tangible incentive to being engaged in their work.
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