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5 steps to building an engaged workforce


Employee engagement is generally in a pretty poor state right now.  I wrote not so long ago about the Gallup research into this that suggested employee engagement is just 13% around the world.  Now that’s pretty awful, but it’s not through the want of trying.  A study published recently by Deloitte suggests that 79% of businesses are seriously concerned by these poor engagement levels.  Indeed, for many of them, it’s the second biggest concern after leadership.

Josh Bersin, author of the Deloitte study, went on to outline five key elements that he believes form a central part of building a top notch organization.

  1. Meaningful work – this first one is probably well known, as there has been an awful lot of discussion over the past few years, not least on this blog, about providing employees with purpose and intrinsic fulfillment in their work.  It shouldn’t really be news therefore, but the awful engagement stats suggest that few organizations have mastered this
  2. Great management – it’s a common refrain that people tend to leave their manager rather than their employer, and Bersin reinforces the important role managers play in coaching, providing feedback and giving employees development opportunities.  This is an issue I’ve touched on a few times on the blog recently, with various studies showing how overbearing bosses can stifle innovation and collaboration.
  3. Opportunities for growth – people want to improve, whether it’s their abilities or their status, and Bersin suggests a lack of growth opportunities is catnip for employee engagement.  Open innovation can be great for this, because it not only provides employees with interesting areas to deploy their skills within, but this process also gives you great insights into the areas that matter to employees.  It’s hard to develop skills in areas if you’re not aware they matter.
  4. Make work fun – this is again an area that I’ve touched on before, and it ties in overwhelmingly with the meaningful work section.  I mean you can have all the ‘funky’ facilities and that you like, but if people aren’t signed up to the general mission of the company, those things will come across as little short of naff and forced.  I’ve written before about forced fun and how it tends to backfire in terms of engagement, so it’s clear that you can’t really fake authenticity.
  5. A culture of trust – the final criteria Bersin identifies is being able to trust your leaders.  Ok, he strictly speaking says inspirational leadership, but I’m not sure I fully agree with this charismatic stuff so much.  Transparency and trust however go hand in hand, and I’ve shown a couple of studies previously highlighting the way trust leads inevitably to higher performance, as employees fully believe that you’ve got their best interests at heart, so will put their all into their work.

It’s an interesting list, with some good points on there.  I agree fully with Bersin’s conclusion that this matter needs to be looked at holistically, and this is a point I make in my 8 Step Guide to Building a Social Workplace .  Engagement is a behaviour you wish to see from employees, so you have to build an environment that encourages that behaviour.  I identify 8 ‘levers’ you can use to do that in the book, and whilst the focus was primarily upon building social behaviours, the levers apply equally well to engagement.

What do you think of Bersin’s list?

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