“Employee Engagement” is more than just another box to tick playing Buzzword Bingo. It’s vital for corporate managers to understand that unengaged employees cost the company money, while engaged ones save money and even generate additional revenue.
So, what does it mean? An employee is engaged when they are mentally present at work, actively paying attention to what the company is all about and constantly participating in furthering the company’s goals. They care about what they do, and what their co-workers do, and are always looking for ways to make things a little better, and a little easier. They also feel valued, and that their job matters beyond just getting a paycheck.
It might once have been true that “making money” was enough for workers – both on the personal level and as the company’s justification for existing. But no more. People today want and even need to feel fulfilled if they’re going to devote the bulk of their time and energy to a job.
The term “engagement” in this context was coined by William Kahn, a professor at Boston University, in the 1990s. It came from his observation that people choose how much of themselves to invest in a job or company. After interviewing people, he found that workers were more emotionally engaged, and even more physically active at work, when they had three psycho-emotional needs met:
- Psychological Meaningfulness – a feeling their work meant something, made a difference in the world
- Psychological Safety – a feeling they were accepted as they were, and valued and respected
- Availability – a feeling of security and confidence that they had the ability, support and tools to get the job done, and done right
Back in a 2008 study, Willis Towers Watson found that companies with a higher level of engagement among staff achieve better financial results, and are more successful in retaining valuable employees. And it correlates – the higher the engagement, the better a company performs. Since then they’ve written dozens of articles on the subject, yet American organizations have been slow to adapt. In their 2014 Global Workforce Study, they still find only 40% of workers are highly engaged. Other studies have lower numbers – some as low as 13% engaged.
Plenty of others have found statistics that make it very clear that engagement is vital to any healthy modern company. Gallup finds that higher workplace engagement leads to 37% lower absenteeism, 21% higher productivity, 41% fewer safety incidents and quality defects, and 28% less internal theft. The Aberdeen Group sees direct links between employee engagement and customer satisfaction, with 26% greater revenue and 233% higher customer loyalty – a staggering number. As an article in Fast Company reported, there are many different ways to measure engagement, yet the findings always come out the same.
This all makes sense – engaged employees are happier and more fulfilled, so they want to stay with their companies, work harder and longer, are more effective, and somehow transfer that sense of satisfaction to customers they deal with.
If we know all this, why aren’t engagement numbers higher? It’s isn’t all overbearing personalities and outdated HR models. Deloitte says that 85% of executives rated engagement as an important (38%) or very important (48%) priority for their companies, and 64% of executives say they are measuring employee engagement once a year (only 18% say their companies don’t formally measure employee engagement at all). The Temkin Group finds that 80% of HR pros say that employee engagement is an important area of focus for their organization.
Statistics abound about how Millennials tend to jump from one company to another, costing organizations billions of dollars annually. An Aon Hewitt study says people want more enablement, autonomy and sense of accomplishment. Other studies show similar trends, though the specifics may be somewhat different. The fact is that today’s workforce is diverse and each employee has different priorities. Yet the three psychological needs outlined by William Kahn are universal. So why are less than half of workers engaged at work in the US?
It comes down to communication. Companies that communicate effectively are four times more likely to report higher levels of engagement than companies that don’t. Engagement isn’t a mechanistic system – it needs to be flexible and able to reach all types of employees within an organization. Some people are analytical, others are structural, some are conceptual and still others may be more social. How can you reach all these types of thinking? What communications methods are best? Pinning up notices on bulletin boards takes time and wastes resources. Some people prefer email, others won’t use it at all (notably Millennials).
The answer is digital signage. You can choose exactly where your displays go, decide which messages go to which displays, publish announcements in just moments and have old messages automatically drop out of rotation. It’s visual, it’s memorable, it’s varied and it’s as comprehensive as you want it to be. Simply talk to your employees to find out what would make their work more fulfilling. You can then use your corporate digital signage in various ways to engage them.
- Manage employee expectations
- Increase morale with employee recognition and support
- Encourage collaboration
- Improve productivity
- Personalize your messages
- Engage employees in multiple locations
- Engage all age groups
- Use metrics for real-time data
- Use digital signage as part of integrated and long-tail campaigns
- Get immediate feedback with calls to action
- Use gamification to keep people interested over the long-term
- Use wayfinding that works for your facility
- Manage meeting spaces more effectively
The fact is that there is no single communication tool that has the reach, flexibility and power of digital signage. No matter who you have working for you, you can reach them quickly and effectively with well-planned and well-designed digital signage content.
It’s a simple equation – the more effectively you communicate with your workforce, the more engaged they are; the more engaged they are, the harder they work; the harder they work, the more profitable your company is.