Barely a week goes by without a new study telling us how low employee engagement is, or how poor productivity levels are. Is anyone really still surprised by these findings? The problem, or certainly one of the most significant ones, is that the employer-employee relationship is fractured.
Naturally there are exceptions to this – and of course there are companies doing great things who have engaged, enabled and empowered employees. Sadly though, they are in the minority. So, what’s the answer – how do companies address this, and how can they get the EX factor?
The problem with focusing just on employee engagement
We must stop focusing solely on employee engagement activities and the ‘engagement score’ in isolation. To do so is to miss the point of what real engagement should look like. What’s needed instead is to look at engagement more holistically as one part of the broader employee experience, or EX as it is also shortened to.
As the leading voice in this field, David MacLeod OBE tells us that employee engagement remains transactional in too many companies. It’s seen as something to be done to employees. The emphasis is often on an employee survey as the hero, rather than it being simply the means to better understand employees in order to improve the business and work environment.
The result when engagement is transactional is that employees stagnate; they don’t innovate or go the extra mile. Engagement remains low, productivity dips and performance overall is poor. Neither the employee nor the employer is getting what they want out of the relationship.
A more holistic approach: the EX
The employer-employee relationship needs to be recalibrated, and employers must make the first move. They should put their employees, and the experience they have of the company, first. Indeed, a number of leading workplace researchers and industry experts have already proclaimed EX as a key business priority. But what should this look like?
Providing an exceptional EX is about so much more than just engagement, important as it is. It encompasses an employee’s entire journey with their employer; from the interview and on-boarding to their exit interview and EVERYTHING in between. It requires a mind shift whereby employers start to treat employees more like customers. Essentially, there are three main aspects of the employee experience, which are:
The very best-performing companies will already excel in all three areas, and this should be the aim for all organisations. That’s because high employee engagement, alone, isn’t enough. You see, even where engagement is high, you could face issues like losing top performers and have high work-related stress among employees due to a lack of enablement or empowerment. And this is why a more holistic approach is a necessity.
Enabling, empowering and engaging your people
Enablement means creating the right environment and providing the resources for employees to perform their job to the best of their ability. To really enable your employees, you’ll need to:
- Have effective performance management and objective-setting
- Provide the necessary resources
- Give access to training
- Have clearly-designed job and work processes
- Encourage collaboration/information-sharing.
Empowerment meanwhile centres on the role of managers and leaders in fostering a culture where people feel they can perform and flourish. If you’re to properly empower people, you’ll have to:
- Create clear roles and responsibilities
- Ensure line managers are willing, and know when, to delegate
- Have transformational leadership
- Create an open and inclusive culture
- Encourage a continuous approach to learning and development.
And lastly, to foster and maintain high engagement you need to:
- Reward employees and recognise their achievements
- Offer development opportunities
- Deliver high quality products/service to customers
- Make clear ‘the big picture’ business objectives
- Foster trust in your leadership
- Provide good job/organisation fit.
A transformational impact?
David MacLeod, among others, has talked up the transformational impact that comes from higher employee engagement. Well, just think about the benefits for your business if your employees feel enabled and empowered as well as being more engaged!
Delivering this kind of first class employee experience will have a demonstrable and significant impact on your business in a number of ways, improving everything from problem-solving and productivity to customer service and the bottom line.
This is precisely why companies should prioritise the relationship with their employees and the EX above all else as, if they get it right, everything else will surely follow.