Employee engagement is on every HR and business leader’s mind, in one form or another. The value of having a highly engaged workforce for an organization’s success is undeniable, but the way to get there remains elusive.
As much as 51% of the global workforce feels disengaged at work, according to Gallup, outnumbering actively engaged employees by 2:1. These numbers have remained largely unchanged for 30 years, despite all the dialogue on employee engagement. Clearly, something is missing.
At our Connections conference in Las Vegas last month, we shared three ways HR leaders can help their organizations inspire engagement:
- Eliminate workplace hassles, freeing people up to contribute in meaningful ways.
- Pay people on time and accurately, because worries about personal finances can distract employees at work.
- Build stronger personal relationships between managers and employees, resulting in managers becoming better people leaders.
While these actions are all steps in the right direction, engagement can’t be achieved so easily. Or can it?
Perhaps the answer lies in flipping the question. Engagement itself isn’t the problem. Engagement is an outcome—a measure of the overall employee experience. Engagement is about bringing out the best in people, tapping into their full potential on a day-to-day basis. For that to happen, we must think of the employee experience as we do our customers’ experience, requiring continual, courageous, and honest communication.
Achieving an optimal employee experience requires a culture of openness, honesty, and trust; an environment in which people find purpose and meaning in their contributions; and effective leaders who encourage employees to discover, unlock, and fulfill their potential in the workplace.
The question then becomes two-fold: what do we do to create the optimized employee experience, and how do we know when we’ve got it? The answer may be creating an atmosphere in which your employees feel free to voice their true thoughts and feelings about their work and the workplace—creating a culture that respects the voice of the employee . Once you hear that voice, genuinely listen to it, and act on it, the transformation in employee experience becomes possible.
Employee voice is not the same as feedback, which often takes the form of traditional employee engagement surveys and newer pulse surveys. For your employees’ voice to truly emerge, your employees first have to believe it is okay to be honest, to reveal themselves. The voice of the employee, in essence, is a reflection or recounting of your employees’ actual experience at work.
Keep in mind that, until your people trust you’ll listen to their honest voice, your engagement data may be skewed. People might self-edit their feedback, say what they believe they need to say, or, even worse, remain silent.
Only when an organization has demonstrated, through policy and action, that it’s okay for each person to be one’s self at work, as in life, is that person able to be open and honest. In that climate, efforts to hear the employee voice will actually bear fruit. Only then can engagement be measured. Only then can your employee experience be optimized.