Organizations do not exist in a vacuum and require various resources in order to ensure continuity and resilience. The needed resources vary from financial, infrastructural, material, systematic and procedural resources as well as others depending on the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the organization. But having all these resources do not guarantee the success of the organization unless the most vital resource of all are optimized and these are the human resources or the employees. Thus, most organizations endeavor to find the right workers that can fit into the various positions and functions in the organization. From position availability announcement, application acceptance, applicant evaluation, recruitment, hiring, training and orientation, these processes performed by the organization are means of ascertaining that individuals assigned to various organizational positions are qualified and able to do the responsibilities therein. Once human resources requirements have been filled, the organization can then achieved set goals and objectives and meet targets and forecasts -- or can it?
The question is posed as a result of the realities that although human resources are the most important components to guarantee organizational continuity and resilience, humans are "humans" with different attitudes, beliefs, work habits and ethics. Each and every employee may be qualified and experienced to do the job tasked but how they do their job or how committed they are to realizing organizational objectives is a different story. Therefore, the organization must be able to provide incentives to motivate these employees to work at their best. In addition, several initiatives must be taken and one of which is employee engagement. One of the more precise definitions of employee engagement is provided by Nitin Vazirani:
Employee engagement is the level of commitment and involvement an employee has towards their organization and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organization. It is a positive attitude held by the employees towards the organization and its values.
Indeed, an "engaged" employee is one that is committed emotionally and intellectually to the realization of organizational goals and objectives. This kind of employee not only "work for the pay" but is passionate about the job and believes in what the organization stands for. Consequently, engagement is about passion and commitment -- the willingness to invest oneself and expend one's discretionary effort to help the employer succeed.
This belief can very well be manifested in the level of energy and effort exhausted by the engaged employee and the work ethics shown in the workplace.
Having engaged employees is an important aspect of ensuring the survivability of the organization. "Research shows that engaged employees are more productive employees. They are more profitable, more customer-focused, safer, and more likely to withstand temptations to leave the organization. In the best organizations, employee engagement transcends a human resources initiative -- it is the way they do business."
On the less bright side of the coin, having disengaged employees can contribute to the downfall of the organization especially if these employees do not go the extra mile to contribute to the efficiency of the organization. Several researches and surveys have pointed out the negative outcomes of having disengaged employees. Further, these studies have provided valuable insights between the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. In BlessingWhite's study, it was found that "fewer than 1 in 3 employees worldwide (31%) are Engaged. Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) are actually Disengaged. Engagement levels vary by region from 37% in India to 17% in China."
The engaged numbers are so low that when related to revenue generation of for-profit organizations, several opportunities to make money are lost because of the level of employee satisfaction and commitment.
In another study conducted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) "aimed at assessing if Australian employees are working to their full potential and whether they feel motivated and inspired in their current position" the result mirrors the global findings of BlessingWhite because in the Australian survey of 3,000 people, "nearly one in three employees at the general staff level are not working to their full potential."
Again, this results to several missed opportunities of various organizations to better achieve their goals and objectives. Thus, it is clear that employee engagement should not be viewed as an expensive initiative but an important aspect of ensuring business continuity, resilience and survivability. "An organization should thus recognize employees, more than any other variable, as powerful contributors to a company's competitive position. Therefore employee engagement should be a continuous process of learning, improvement, measurement and action."
This should be demonstrated in terms of employee engagement plans and programs that will enable these employees to become "engaged employees" thereby increasing the "1 out of 3" engaged employee statistics to 2 or more. The human resources function has been under pressure for decades to prove that it makes a difference.
But to do so has to be with the support of the organization by providing various ways and means of evolving into a better and more effective workforce. Employee engagement initiatives is one of the key measures that will enable the organizational human resources asset to prove its worth. The higher the level of engagement, the higher the performance of the business.
To drive home the point of what employee engagement is, an example can be taken with how disengaged employees are. These types of employees will simply do the "9-to5" routine of the job and perform based on the minimal or average expectations. They simply have no motivation or feel at a dead end with their careers. Disengaged employees generally feel undervalued, have negative opinions of their managers, perform less than others, have higher absenteeism rates and are less committed and satisfied with their jobs.
Engaged employees on the other hand are those that give their 110% and will always strive to improve what is in order to have better outputs. In an employee engagement guide written by Dr. Robert Vance for the SHRM Foundation, he describes engaged employees as having three S. factors, these employees:
Stay -- They have an intense desire to be a part of the organization and they stay with that organization;
Say -- They advocate for the organization by referring potential employees and customers, are positive with co-workers and are constructive in their criticism;
Strive -- They exert extra effort and engage in behaviors that contribute to business success.
Employee engagement is not an easy endeavor because the differences in people's beliefs, attitudes, work ethics and habits. Although there are costs involve with this undertaking, "engaging employees does not have to be an event where the organization breaks the bank. Practices such as on-the-job training, employee recognition and positive reinforcement can go a long way to motivating employees and showing that management cares."
In doing all these endeavors to engage employees, the organization is undergoing a paradigm shift and ensures that having engaged employees become part of the organizational culture. This means that re-engineering of human resources is involved and eventually organizational re-engineering takes place. This re-engineering entails having various plans and programs implemented to motivate employees to look at their jobs not as sources of income but fulfillment of their own personal and professional goals that are aligned with the success of the organization. If these engaged employees are instrumental in contributing to the accomplishments of the organization, they then have personal stakes and will always be proud of being part of the organization. "Engaging employees requires a year-round focus on changing behaviors, processes, and systems to anticipate and respond to your organization's needs. From the leadership team to the frontline employees, all levels within an organization must commit to making these changes."
The re-engineering make take the form of asking various questions to employees as to the level of their job satisfaction and their expectorations. Employee engagement plans and programs can also be included in the organizational strategic plan that will see various results especially with regards to attaining a return on investment (ROI) from the employee engagement activities.
Although it may seem that the end results of employee engagement may only be beneficial to the organization, this is not the case because any employee engagement initiative is a win-win solution. Employees should view these engagement plans and programs as ways and means of improving their skills, knowledge and experience in the job of profession they have. For instance, an accountant working in the Finance and Accounting Department of an organization may feel disengaged because she feels she is a dead-end job doing the same things over and over again for the last several years. When interviewed for an employee engagement plan, the accountant responded with dissatisfaction because of the routine and she did not see anything important with how balancing the books and accounts of the organization on a regular basis is helping her career. Realizing the situation the accountant is at, management decided to send her to advance corporate accounting courses and…