Smart methods for engaging employees

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 October, 2007, 12:00am

Engaging staff and making them eager to go to work every day is no easy task and, as a result, 'employee engagement management' has become one of the most popular strategies in human resources and organisation development.

Research shows that companies who engage employees effectively enjoy better business results, higher sales, better operating efficiency and lower staff turnover rates. And staff themselves have higher levels of satisfaction.

In a seminar on October 12, titled Striving for Business Excellence via Employee Engagement Management, Raymond Cheng Wai-man, general manager, business management division of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, said: 'Everything you do is affecting an employee's degree of engagement.'

He said engaging staff was extremely important to a company's success.

'Staff who are satisfied will say positive words for the company, and committed staff will be willing to stay. They not only enjoy satisfaction and commitment; they will treat the company as their own and give all that they can,' he said.

When employees are engaged, they believe in and support the goals and values of the company, possess a sense of belonging, feel pride and are attached to the company. They are willing to commit and go the extra mile for the company.

'An engaged workforce will feel a strong emotional bond to the company and are pleased to work in the company,' Mr Cheng said.

Better employee engagement can be achieved through performance management, policy deployment, people development and potential assessments.

To assess how employees are engaged, an employee survey can be conducted. Mr Cheng recommended that questions should be carefully designed and focused on four sections: senior management, immediate supervisors, work aspects, and teamwork and co-operation.

'Ask staff if they are proud of the company, what they think about their career development and if they think management will take action after hearing their comments,' said Mr Cheng, adding that the survey should be conducted every quarter for accurate analysis.

Mr Cheng said that management should then define a strategy that would help them to engage and retain staff. 'Some companies would like to use money to keep talent. But others will not consider this factor at all because of a limited budget,' he said.

Despite monetary reward being a crucial factor, other elements including opportunities, quality of life and company practices are effective in motivating and engaging employees.

Revitalising company culture and values, providing training and development are common solutions that corporations use to engage staff.

'You are not just providing training, it's also an alignment. The trained staff should champion the corporate vision and get business results,' Mr Cheng said.

Companies should also consider enhancing staff communication: 'Most of the time, staff are not engaged enough because there is a lack of communication in the company,' said Mr Cheng. 'People might not want to get involved but be well informed [about company policies].'

He said many corporations made use of communication channels such as public announcement systems, voicemail and webpage forums to inform employees of the latest information and developments.

'HR should come up with some special and new approaches to communicate with staff. No one will look at the notice board now,' he said.

Talent development and maintaining work-life balances are vital when engaging staff.

However, 'different approaches should be used for different people', said Mr Cheng.

He said companies such as Starbucks and McDonald's, whose staff were relatively young, used different but entertaining activities to get their staff engaged. For companies consisting of more mature staff, these entertaining activities might not be the right channel to get employees engaged as they would rather spend more time with their families.

Getting results

Employee engagement is more than satisfaction and commitment

Employees are motivated by intrinsic factors such as personal growth, not simply by extrinsic factors such as salary and benefits

Employee engagement has a positive relationship with business results