Workforce Engagement


Human resources concept in tag cloud for front sliderWorkforce Engagement, what is it, why is it important, and how can we achieve greater levels of this in our workforce.

Engagement is the level of satisfaction, effort and commitment that someone will find and apply to their job. There are many elements and aspects that have been used to measure workforce engagement; however, I find the four most relevant aspects are:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Job commitment
  • Affective commitment
  • Intention to stay

Job satisfaction is the measure of how an individuals views their job at satisfying their intrinsic needs, do they feel valued, are they challenged or are they over challenged and stress; do they have a good work life balance; do they enjoy their work environment, the people and management; and is the role an appropriate one for their personality type or job fit.

Job commitment is how much an individual is prepared to go above and beyond the normal expected duties.  Work back late to meet dead lines, take on projects, assist others in the workplace, flexibility, and general giving of them selves to the job.

Affective commitment is the level of commitment to an organisation, whether the individual has similar core values to the organisations, they believe the organisation is doing something good (good products, services, or adding value somewhere), they are happy to be working for that organisation and they are proud they are working for the organisation.

Intention to stay is quite straightforward; are individuals looking to leave their role and organisation. This is often the hardest to measure because of external influences that are just not known by the employee or they are just not willing to share this information.  Intentions to stay need to be found early if an organisation is going to fix the causes of why employees may have a view not to remain with the organisation.

These four aspects are interdependent, they have a strong predictive influence on one another for example someone who has high levels of job satisfaction is more likely to have a higher level of intention to stay; some one with high levels of job satisfaction is more likely to have higher levels of job commitment and visa versa. Conversely a person might have high levels of job satisfaction but poor organisational fit (affective commitment) job commitment will be effected as will attention to stay.

So why is the level of engagement important to organisations? Now we know what the measures are it should be apparent that it would be beneficial to have employees with high levels of these aspects. Workforce engagement affects a business’s bottom line. A study conducted by Patterson, West, Lawthom, & Nickell (1997) found that organisations with higher levels of Job satisfaction and organisational commitment were 10% more profitability and 23% more productivity than businesses who’s employees had lower levels of those attributes.

Ensuring your workforce is full-engaged affects your bottom line and leads to a happier more productive workforce; that should be all the motivation you need to convince you that this is an area that needs further investigation.

So now we know what it is and what causes it what can we do about it.

Recruitment plays a big part of engagement, finding someone suitable for the line of work or job-fit plays a major part in the level of job satisfaction similarly finding a person who has comparable values to the organisation will have a appreciation of the organisation and therefore higher levels of affective commitment.

Engage your workforce. We want higher levels of engagement; however, management and workplace leaders are not engaging with their workforce enough. This means good, active leadership; this is accomplished by spending formal and informal time with staff, having regular communication, showing an active interest in their staff and their work (not micro managing), providing constructive feedback, knowing strengths and limitations of their staff.

These are just a few ways to start engaging staff better. Engaging staff will have an impact on their  job satisfaction, job commitment and intention to stay.

Example. An organisation I work with had regular monthly meeting for the department; however, the Executive Director of that department attended less than half of the monthly meetings. The result of the ED’s actions was it left the staff feeling unimportant, undervalued, it left a leadership void and a missed opportunity to engage with the team. I’m sure this was never the intention of the ED; however, a time set aside to engage with the team was not utilised this was a failure to recognise the importance of engaging with the staff and the wider team.

Lead by example; management and workplace leaders cannot act in one way while expecting employees to act another. I’m referring to the levels of engagement that is demonstrated by leadership; the attitude towards work, the organisation and other members of the team; and the values that are demonstrate at work and in everyday activities. Leaders at all levels set the standards, this is leadership 101 but it is amazing to see how many forget this or think they can get away with a different behaviour.

Gaining high levels of workforce engagement should be a constant objective of organisations and although HR professionals should be the catalyst of this it is the responsibility of leaders at all levels to be aware of this and to do their part in trying to raise the levels of workforce engagement.

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