Boosting employee engagement

Why investing in employee engagement pays off

According to employee engagement experts Red Balloon Corporate employee engagement is the emotional and intellectual commitment a person brings to an organisation or job.

Research by Gallup shows that up to 21 per cent of employees across Australia are disengaged costing businesses up to $42 billion per year in lost productivity. On the flip side an engaged workforce can deliver 27 per cent higher profits, 50 per cent higher sales, 50 per cent higher customer loyalty and 38 per cent more productivity.

From a purely financial perspective the argument for engagement is compelling, the 2008 O.C Tanner Global Recognition Study found that a 15 per cent improvement in employee engagement equates to a two per cent improvement in an organisation’s operating margin.

Improved employee engagement, it would seem therefore, is an objective worth pursuing and the rest of this article looks at ways you can work to improve engagement within your organisation.

Improving employee engagement

The first step in any program designed to boost employee engagement is to seek universal feedback from all your employees about how they are feeling. Depending on the size and structure of your organisation, this could be through a formalised survey of staff morale conducted by an external services provider or through a series of workshops or information gathering sessions conducted in-house.

Remember that if you do conduct the sessions in-house employees may feel uncomfortable about discussing their unhappiness or plans to leave with colleagues so it will be worthwhile considering how you can give them a forum to speak their mind without fear of having it held against them later on.

Once you have collated and reviewed the feedback from employees you’ll need to consider strategies to address the causes of those problems given the unique culture, strategic goals and corporate environment of your organisation.

Strategies to improve engagement should be specific to the model of engagement that is best for your organisation and it might be worth considering:

  • What sort of organisation does your organisation aspire to be?
  • How do you want employees to talk about and feel about their place of work?
  • What a highly engaged workforce would look like and be like and how would it be different to your current workforce?
  • What impact a highly engaged workforce would have?

Focus on strategies which address any of the negative management techniques or cultural idiosyncrasies of the way your organisation operates. As a HR leader it can be difficult to have a clear perspective on the aspects of an employee’s working life which are having a negative impact. Employee feedback provides an excellent opportunity to collect feedback and to address some of the minor issues.

Strategies to address the larger and more wide sweeping issues may take longer to conceive of and implement but can be tackled in conjunction with the affected employees. Taking a fast and proactive position on the issues identified by employees will ensure they feel listened to which should have a positive impact on morale, even if the solutions do take some time to introduce.


All employers interested in boosting staff engagement should maintain constant communication with employees. Simply acknowledging a job well done, thanking people in a team meeting or emailing words of thanks and encouragement can have a really positive impact on employees. Managers should be encouraged, through a company-wide culture of offering recognition when recognition is due, to thank their employees whenever they do a great job.

Although you may have many larger issues to deal with when dealing with low engagement levels introducing small systems like regular praise based recognition, certificates of achievement and public acknowledgement of success can have a positive impact on employee engagement on a daily basis.

Victor Lipman a regular contributor to Forbes magazine says recognition (or lack thereof) is always a key element of employee engagement.

“In a business environment where people are extraordinarily busy and routinely asked to do more with less, all too often successful tasks and projects are completed without recognition for those involved.

The pace is frantic so when one job is done, it’s on to the next. Taking the exceptionally small amount of time it requires – by email, vmail, text, tweet, FaceBook, phone… or best yet (a novel idea) in person – to stop what you’re doing and say a simple thank you is one of the easiest, cheapest and best investments an executive can make.

Appreciation can be a difference maker, just as silence can,” he says.

Boldly introducing change

Jenny Schade from JRS Consulting says the most important part of any program designed to boost employee engagement following an employee survey or review of opinions is to implement the interventions designed to address the problems. Jenny says that in her experience many companies conducted a survey on engagement levels then do not proceed to change the problem areas.

“Some companies make plans to re-survey their employees one year after the original survey to gauge improvement, even though they have done nothing differently. This is a recipe for disaster,” she says

Jenny says it is critical to tell employees about the results of the findings, what the company is doing to address any identified issues, introduce strategies to address those issues and then measure the success of those strategies 12-18 months after they have taken effect.

Jenny also highlights the importance of ensuring there is a whole of organisation approach to implementing the changes as she says leaders have to model the new behaviours and systems in order for them to cascade down through the organisation.

Measuring success

As mentioned above any strategies designed to improve staff engagement need to be revisited and reassessed 12-18 months after they have been introduced. You’ll need to assess whether the strategies have been implemented successfully but also whether they have actually achieved the desired goal of improving engagement, so this would also be the ideal time to conduct another staff survey.

This is not to say that employee feedback should come to a grinding halt. Managers charged with improving staff engagement under a new regime should hold regular updates with staff to assess how they are feeling under the new arrangements. Managers should be requested to ask employees for their opinions fairly regularly and these informal conversations should be used to alter any strategies in place to ensure they keep the engagement process stays on track.


Red Balloon

Seven Steps to Ignite Employee Engagement by Jenny Schade.

1. SHRM/Globoforce Winter 2012 Report

This Better Workplace Bulletin was First Published in August 2012

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