Employee engagement is sometimes defined as how committed employees are to their jobs and the organisation. This can be measured by how willing they are to go the extra mile – to do that little bit extra – to add value to the organisation. There are many drivers of engagement, one of which is the opportunity to do meaningful work.
Apply the following criteria to ascertain whether your employees think their jobs are meaningful. These criteria are all important but the weight that they carry might change from person to person.
“I understand the organisation’s strategy and how my job fits in to achieve it.”
Communicate your organisation’s vision and purpose to your employees in a simple way. Use metaphors and tell stories to allow people to retain the information. You will need to communicate this message over and over – it might take many repetitions for people to make the connection. The strategy should be clear in terms of where the organisation plays and how it will win.
Next, allow employees to have discussions with their line managers on how their jobs fit in with achieving the strategy. These links should be clear and straightforward – capture the actions and behaviours that employees should focus on in order to achieve the strategy.
TIP: This is a useful input when having a discussion about goals. Any goal that doesn’t support the organisation’s strategy, should have a low priority, or even be excluded altogether.
2. Goal Setting
“I know what the expectations are for me to perform and achieve the goals.”
Set goals for the business with outcomes, quality requirements and clear indicators at least on an annual basis. From here, cascade the goals to departments, teams and finally individuals. Employees should have the opportunity to give input to their goals (so guard against just handing people their goals) so that they feel a commitment to them. Each goal should be clear in terms of what it will achieve and how it will support the business strategy. If there’s not a clear link, be critical on whether the goal should be included at all.
3. Vision, purpose and values
“I understand and agree with the values and purpose of the organisation.”
Each organisation has a vision (what they’d like to be known for), a purpose (what they are there to achieve) and values (how they will behave). Having clear values is a critical aspect of what prospective employees will look at when deciding to join your organisation. It is also a guideline to current employees on how to behave, and which behaviours are valued and which are not.
Ensure that your values are written as behaviours and not just as topics – e.g. “Customer Service” is more a topic and is not useful when employees need to decide on their actions. A better example is “We provide excellent customer service, always going the extra mile for the customer.” Now it’s clearer on the particular behaviour that is expected linked to the value of customer service.
4. Performance feedback
“I get regular feedback on my performance and know what to do to improve.”
Employees need to know how they are performing in relation to what is expected. Having regular informal discussions between employees and line managers is a good way to clarify expectations, give feedback on current performance and achievements and course-correct. Best practice dictates that employees are responsible for setting up these discussions (so that they take an active role in managing their performance) and that they lead the discussion rather than waiting for the manager to do so.
Formal performance reviews usually take place quarterly or twice annually.
5. Tools, skills and information
“I have the tools, skills and information needed to perform my job.”
When employees struggle to source the tools that they need to do the job, or if the tools are insufficient or inadequate, it will negatively affect their engagement.
Planning for assets (and replacing/renewing them) is a critical part of business operations. To ensure that employees have the information they need, create a business process flow when you highlight the information that flows into a particular job, and the information flowing out of it. In this way you can build up a picture of how information flows in your organisation and identify any bottle-necks where info gets stuck or takes too long.
Skills development is another critical area to keep the business performing. It’s not always possible to recruit for the skills that we need in a position, so develop a list of skills and competencies needed for each job and identify learning opportunities to close any skills gaps (e.g. workplace instructions, training courses, learning on-the-job, coaching and mentoring, online learning, conferences, books/articles).
6. Opportunity for development
“I have opportunities for training and development – professionally and personally.”
The opportunity for learning and development is one of the main elements that prospective employees consider before deciding to join an organisation. Equally, it is a critical element to retaining and engaging employees. Ensure that each employee has an Individual Development Plan that gives them the opportunity to learn technical and behavioural skills that they need in the job, and for prospective career enhancement. Identify opportunities to allocate interesting projects to employees where they can learn new skills and apply them, or allow them to act in roles with increased responsibilities.
7. Support of a team
“I feel part of a team and have someone to speak to when I need to.”
A feeling of belonging is critical for employees to feel engaged and to go that extra mile. Working with people that you trust and can count on, is a critical motivation for engagement and performance. Ensure that teams are clear on what their purpose is (what makes them a team), that they are trained on how to collaborate effectively, and how to provide challenging feedback in a constructive way.
8. Career advancement
“I have the opportunity to advance my career.”
Some employees might be happy to stay where they are and do the same job for 50 years. But most people are looking for opportunities to advance their career, learn and develop and take on more responsibilities and the monetary benefits that come with it. Having a clear career development policy in place gives employees the assurance that their development is a priority for the organisation. Start with having standard career pathways in place to show people which paths could be possible. Also, focus on side-ways moves with opportunities for learning and deepening of skills – it’s not so much a career ladder as a career jungle gym! Be clear on what skills and experience each job needs, and what is available to support employees to achieve these in order to be considered for these positions.