Employee Engagement in a workplace for 2016

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What proves one company more successful than others? Better strategies, products, technologies, better cost structure or perhaps services? Certainly, in part all of these contribute to successful performance, but all of them would be copied over time. The one and only thing that creates sustained competitive advantage, long-term strength and company value is its workforce, the people who make the company.

When it comes to workforce, the company which engages its employees significantly outperforms companies that do not engage. In the cutthroat competition for business advantage where employees are the differentiating fact, engaging employees has to be the ultimate goal.

The concept of employee engagement is fast gaining popularity in modern day business. The workplace of the last couple of decades is very different from what it used to be. Bigger and small businesses are investing more and more to create a happy workforce through the medium of employee engagement. Newer and more effective strategies are being developed in the science of human resource management for aggressive implementation of employee engagement policies. In this article we would highlight top 8 influences which are affecting employee engagement in modern workplace environment. But before we get on, it is appropriate to dig a little into the history of employee engagement concept.

The Maslow Factor

The modern employee engagement concept is a derivative and adaptation of the Abraham Maslow’s (1908-1970) hierarchy of need model (circa 1950). The Hierarchy of Needs theory remains valid even today for understanding management training, human motivation, and personal development.

Maslow’s model emphasizes on the concept of a benevolent employer who provides for a great workplace environment to encourage an employee to achieve personal excellence to contribute to company goals.

Maslow’s original model was a five point narration where an employee has five basic personal needs to be a productive workplace member and a company needs to engage the employee in all these spheres to bring the best out of him. These five needs include Biological and Physiological needs (air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc), Safety needs (protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc), Belongingness and Love needs (work group, family, affection, relationships, etc), Esteem needs (self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc) and Self-Actualization needs (realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences). The simplest possible explanation of this tiered theory is that a company must engage a workforce member in all these dimensions to transform him or her into an exceptionally performing contributor.

The evolution of Maslow’s model has brought in three additional principles over time (not originally part of Maslow’s theory but an adaptation based on his work by subsequent social researchers and scientists). The three established and widely recognized add on’s are:

  • Cognitive needs (understanding the meaning of work or having adequate knowledge of the field)
  • Aesthetic needs (a connection with balance and beautiful form in life to achieve satisfaction)
  • Transcendence needs (ultimate in self actualization when a person helps others to achieve it after achieving it himself)

It is pertinent to understand that these are the 8 basic influences which would be the foundation of employee engagement policies or strategies to be adopted by the companies of businesses for a happy workforce.

How these will form the basis of employee engagement in a workplace in 2016?

Now we are well placed to understand the concept of employee engagement within the framework of these top influences. There are 3 basic factors which are integral and vital to any employee engagement policy or strategy (since they are the basis of all employee related issues in a company):

  • Relationship with immediate supervisor – working and personal. Personal relationship with their immediate supervisor can enhance employee engagement or can create an atmosphere where an employee becomes disengaged.
  • Belief in senior leadership actions and policies. Employees believe in the ability of senior leadership who take their input, lead the company in the right direction and openly communicate the state of the organization. This is the key in driving employee engagement. Other factors that drive engagement are showing respect to employees, accept their personal values and sentiment. Once these employee aspirations are reflected and respected by company policies and actions, an employee feels engaged and more productive.
  • Pride or good feeling in working for the company

While any company would love to believe that their team is working towards their company goals, the truth may not be as rosy. As per modest estimates less than 30% workforce is engaged on the job simply because they don’t feel any pride or attachment with the company they are working for.

These three baseline issues are all encompassing but may not be depict the whole story of paint a wholesome picture of employee engagement. Many branches within these three factors are equally important like transparency, employee detachment from company core values / goals, showing disrespect to employee feedback and so on.

Where does Maslow Model (and its adaptations or add-ons) intersect with these 3 vital dimensions and becomes the influence of employee engagement in a workplace of 2016? Simply everywhere! The reason is that Maslow model is a depiction of human organizational behavior and human personal expectations to achieve the level of excellence every company would desire from its workforce. A fulfillment of Maslow defined needs in employer-employee settings is a key to employee engagement road map for any business.

Bottom Line

Well engaged individuals, supervisors and managers contribute and outperform their peers by wide margin. More often, this performance enhancement is a result of the engaged performer’s personal effort‚ Æthe extra initiative, effort and creativity with which they contribute beyond the minimum needed to get by. This only happens once they are truly engaged.

It is more relevant for a workplace in 2016 to adopt the Maslow model in employee engagement approach since a happy employee means a thriving business.

Have you read our great article on Employee Engagement at Christmas or Success in 2016.