The leadership of employee engagement is everyone’s role

9 April, 2019
Managing by values

Culture to engage must be delivered consistently and constantly

Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report showed that all the strategies put in place to promote and aid leadership of employee engagement since the turn of the new Millennium have hardly changed how employees feel at work. Therefore, the question that must be answered is, how do you address the issue of leadership of employee engagement to promote all its benefits (such as greater staff retention, improved productivity, increased customer loyalty and growing revenues)?


Regular strategies for leadership of employee engagement are not working

Because of its benefits, leadership of employee engagement has been the subject of endless hours of research, innumerable reams of reports and scholarly articles, and incredible amounts of industry-specific whitepapers. Employers have spent vast sums of money in their attempts to gauge, monitor and improve employee engagement. Yet, despite all this effort, between 2000 and 2016, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace surveys found that:

  • The percentage of actively disengaged employees fell only marginally, from 18% to 16%
  • The percentage of those employees who are not engaged fell similarly, from 56% to 51%

Clearly, strategies for leadership of employee engagement are not producing the results that the large investment by organisations should produce.


Why employee engagement is a leadership issue

In our article “Factors of employee engagement that can launch you toward your goals”, we discussed the single moment that defined the level of employee engagement at SpaceX – the video shows “the culmination of a milestone landmark – a moment in time in which every person shares the apprehension, fear, angst, and ultimate joy of the CEO and embodies the key factors of employee engagement.

In that article, we wrote about breaking down silos and connecting people, believing in the company mission, creating an open and honest workplace, and success (and failure) as a shared experience. All these elements of employee engagement are among those that create and maintain organisational culture.

For employees to feel engaged with their work and with their organisation, the culture must promote engagement. This isn’t just an HR issue. It’s a leadership and management issue.

Culture drives employee engagement. It is a constant living force that underpins the value an organisation places on its employees, customers, shareholders and other stakeholders. Culture is the responsibility of everyone. However, leading it – and therefore leadership of employee engagement – is the responsibility of leaders and managers.


What does leadership of employee engagement look like?

Empirical evidence suggests that four common concerns within organisations are communication, management, misalignment, and managing through change. These are issues that are concerned with both culture and capability and they are issues that must be addressed constantly.

i. Communication

Communication is key to leadership of employee engagement. Messages must be consistent and they must be constantly reinforced. Messages that come from leaders have a greater sense of meaning, but do they convey the same meaning?

To enable effective communication that aids leadership of employee engagement, the organisation must develop a strategy to ensure that communication is consistent across all functions, teams and geographies. It is essential that an organisation ensures that the same conversation is taking place in all spaces.


ii. Management

An organisation’s managers are responsible for ensuring that all work that needs to be done is done. They plan, organise and control work. They also lead. Employees take notice of not just what their managers say, but also what they do. If a manager is not walking the talk, how can an organisation expect its employees to?

Therefore, it is imperative that managers and supervisors maintain the same understanding and focus on goals, values and purpose that organisation leaders expect. By making leadership of employee engagement a focal point of every leadership and management meeting, the organisation will promote its culture to a new level of consciousness within the organisation.


iii. Misalignment

Misalignment is often caused by poor communication, or by internal procedural and policy differences. For example, there may be clashes between policy and culture (e.g. the policy is to provide hands-on training and coaching, while the culture is to provide manuals and let new employees ‘get on with it’).

When and where misalignment exists, confusion is created, leading to disaffection and disengagement.


iv. Managing through change

Change is a constant in business and rapid change is the new normal. The ability of an organisation to change to meet the demands of its customers, to align with new legislation, or to onboard new best practices, is dependent upon its culture. In our article “How to change organisational culture to support business transformation” we describe how organisational culture is the heart and soul of a business, and we outline four principles of changing organisational culture:

  1. Articulate ambitions and aspirations
  2. Align leaders with culture
  3. Reinforce organisational culture change with organisational processes and practice
  4. Put culture at the heart of the conversation


Leadership of employee engagement in action

Tesco Maintenance needed to improve engagement in its health and safety agenda and it wanted its people to understand the roles they play in ‘doing good business’. It put culture at the heart of its conversation by employing gamification to boost learning.

Tesco Maintenance engaged our services to create a unique Learning Map formatted as a highly interactive board game. The game was based upon a representation of a Tesco store, and health and safety conversations were encouraged by teams earning points for demonstrating knowledge while avoiding pitfalls of ‘unsafe acts’ and ‘unsafe conditions’. Action learning tools further enhanced opportunities to discuss health and safety in the workplace, and this enabled greater understanding of how they play a role in contributing to that.


Is your organisation lacking in leadership of employee engagement?

Organisations that want to reap the benefits of employee engagement should start leadership of employee engagement with a more strategic, consistent and constant approach. How do you do this?

Tesco Maintenance found that the Learning Map System combined with gamification elements enabled meaningful conversations to take place, leading to “fantastic engagement and buy-in to ‘The Safety-First Game’ developed for us by BigPicture.” The impact has been so great that Tesco Maintenance have requested the game now be adapted for their distribution centres to ensure those employees are included in the process.

To discover how our Learning Map could help you to improve your employee engagement strategy by encouraging, initiating and empowering meaningful conversations, get in touch with The Big Picture People today.

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