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Louise is a Londoner and a human resources professional who's interested in insurance, risk analysis and pensions management. When Louise or Lou for short isn't working hard in the big smoke you will find her sunbathing on the East coast.

What the NHS can teach us about employee engagement

Engaging employees is a concept that has become more and more frequently talked about in recent years. As evidence grows to suggest that engaging employees has positive outcomes, employers are increasingly starting to consider engagement strategies a priority.

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An ‘engaged’ employee can be defined in several ways, but summed up as “A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.” (Institute of Employment Studies).

Research

A recent employee satisfaction survey from a large human resources organisation revealed a number of useful and interesting outcomes of increased levels of engagement. It found that the employee value proposition is breaking down.

Not only are employees feeling more positive about their employers, they are talking about them in a more positive way and striving to perform better for them, which goes some way towards explaining why those companies who invest in engagement strategies as part of the employee lifecycle outperform those average companies who don’t. The survey also found that three key drivers of increased engagement were career opportunities, managing performance and organisational reputation.

A further recent study examining the engagement of employees within the NHS revealed that levels of employee engagement can be strongly linked to patient satisfaction, employee wellbeing and even important clinical outcomes, such as mortality rates.

Put simply, engaging employees is an essential step in ensuring the continued success of any organisation.

It seems a number of lessons can be learned from these findings. Not just within the health sector, but for the business world in general.

The report, commissioned for Healthcare People Managers Association and NHS Employers identified effective engagement approaches used within eight trusts, all considered to be high performing.

Recommendations

Outlined below are strongly transferable and can be employed in most industries:

Strong Organisational Values – A set of clear values, developed with, not for, employees. To enable full integration, these values should be communicated constantly and must form the foundation for HR processes. Managers and senior leaders must be seen to adhere to these value through their actions and decision making processes.

Senior Leadership – A variety of channels must be open to allow employees to engage with senior leaders at all times.

Line Managers – Must be on hand to support employees through appraisal, barrier removal and team building.

Employee Voice – Employees must feel able to communicate concerns and make suggestions for improvements. They must feel an integral part of the decision-making process.

Partnership Working – Establishing a culture of partnership working across the board, based primarily on trust, is another key strategy.

The sooner employees become ‘engaged’, within the employee cycle, the better and more effective the process will be. Strategies should be instigated at every level and be long-term.

Maximising employee recognition in the workplace

Employee recognition is often undervalued by managers in the workplace, yet it can have a profound impact upon employee engagement, performance, motivation, morale and, ultimately, how long a worker decides to stay with your company.

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What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition takes many different forms. Essentially, it is about rewarding an employee for a good job done. The recognition does not have to take the form of a pay increase, although this is often the most valued and recognised form of recognition, but there are many other ways that a manager can appreciate and acknowledge the skills and output of a worker.

What forms can recognition take?

At its simplest, recognition can take the form of a thank you, but other incentives might include training or promotion, more responsibility, taking part in decision-making, having the right tools for the job and awards or prizes.

Smaller organisations may not have the financial resources to employ recognition schemes based on pay incentives, but research has shown that other methods can be as effective in promoting employee engagement and satisfaction.

Survey results

The results of an employee satisfaction survey undertaken in the USA make interesting statistics with regards to employee recognition. Around 5,000 companies and 400,000 employees took part in the survey to find out how often individuals were recognised in the workplace and what form of recognition they valued the most.

The results indicated that the highest number of satisfied employees (73%) lived in Huntsville, in Alabama, followed by Nashville in Tennessee at 69%, Austin and San Antonio in Texas, as well as Washington DC at 68% and Atlanta in Georgia, Charlotte in North Carolina, Orlando in Florida, Raleigh in North Carolina and Tampa in Florida all achieving 67% of satisfied employee scores.

Survey respondents highlighted a pay raise as the most valued form of recognition, followed by training, flexible working hours, receiving a bonus or a promotion. The least favoured form of recognition was a personalised gift such as a plaque or company merchandise.

Executing an employee recognition programme

Implementing an employee recognition programme in the workplace needs to take into account the fact that individuals are unique and value different forms of recognition, or may benefit more from one form compared to another, taking into account the delicate balance of the employee value proposition.

Employers should also recognise that individuals are at different stages of the employee lifecycle, so that different forms of recognition may be more pertinent and valued depending on whether they have just joined the organisation or whether they have been there a long time.

Employers should certainly take the statistics gained from the USA survey conducted into account, with the aim of maximising the satisfaction levels within their organisation. Whenever recognition is given, employers also need to ensure that it is timely (that it occurs immediately following a good job done, or in cases where it is necessary to fulfil a task), and that it is given consideration at regular intervals throughout the year.

The future of recruitment in a globalised world

If you’ve ever worked on a team that has combined the strengths of the individuals in its ranks to reach a solution that no one member could have come up with themselves, you’ll know that sometimes different methods of problem-solving can be used in a synergistic way to change the way we view reality.

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Why Egalitarianism Works
It’s just one of the reasons that America as a country has such a strong forward step in business ingenuity: from Benjamin Franklin to Barack Obama, for centuries, the United States has encouraged citizens from all walks of life to come up with ideas, offering fame and fortune to those whose best solutions can be applied to the world stage if their timing is right. As a country that has produced both the airplane and the automobile, the US has always transported people on a fast track to the future by using common sense ingenuity as its engine. It’s why improving employee engagement often begins with making employees feel valued as potentially successful workers.

Ingenuity on the World Stage
Increasingly, however, countries like the US are understanding that this isn’t due to some special ingredient in a nation’s water supply, but increasingly due to an appeal to the egalitarian strength and ingenuity of great minds the world over. With positive reinforcement for good ideas, the thinking goes, citizens all over the world should be able to have an equal chance at success if their ideas are sound and their work is honest. Take an engagement survey of any good business, and you’ll see that one of the primary focuses of employee happiness is the feeling that all workers are equal and stand an equal chance at success.

And as the world becomes more interconnected with technological advances that increasingly make the personal both the public and the political — with recent freedom movements in countries like Iran and Egypt powered by American technological breakthroughs in communication such as Twitter and Facebook — many professionals are wondering what the future of recruitment will look like.

Employees as World-Wide Equals and Partners in Business
Indeed, if you haven’t seen the turning tides in the international culture of business, it’s truly astounding to see the way that cultures can meet at a point of interest to solve some of the biggest problems the world over. Educational departments such as Yale’s doctorate program in Economics, for example, which has a reputation for producing tomorrow’s great thinkers on finance, have students who are often drawn from universities from countries as different as China and Pakistan — with a world sensibility largely overtaking the sort of old-boy networks of American business that had their hey-day in the early 20th Century.

Job Satisfaction: Why Employees Should Know They Matter
The fact is that when employee satisfaction is high, companies simply run better. And when employees know that equality is paramount in an organization, they know that they have a better chance of succeeding if they work harder and smarter.

And fortunately, this shift is coming at a time when we’re seeing an ever greater need for top-tier talent from around the world. Think of it as a kind of global melting-pot that brings out the best of what different perspectives can offer. And also think of it as a way for employers to hire from the ranks of world-class workers who specialize in the kind of technological and ideological advances that make companies great. But most of all, think of it as a fulfilment of the promise that as human beings we are all equal, and all deserve an equal chance to pursue careers that make us happy.

Advantages and disadvantages of team-building as a way to create employee engagement

credits: Getty ImagesManagers refer to employee engagement as an essential element in retaining high caliber workers. The advantages and disadvantages of team-building are clear: without a team-building premise, employees may feel adrift and lack necessary supervision; the disadvantages of team-building can make some employees, e.g. entrepreneurial ‘rain-makers,’ feel stifled or tied to the hip of a less-able to perform administrative manager. Building team culture requires clear goals and great communications skills. An overview of some of the pros and cons of team-building include:

Successful team-building delivers advantages. 
Team-building management skills are highly valued in the workplace. When the manager helps the team come together, he always manages change. He identifies the change facing the team and presents his findings to the team. He continuously manages those team members resistant to change. Importantly, he communicates how the changes create opportunities for individuals and the team. Managers know they’re team-building because:

1. Great teams allow participants to collaborate with management leadership. According to authors Robert Barner and Charlotte Barner, (“Building Better Teams,” 2012) team building develops individual and group accountability by focusing on individual and team success. The successful team-building manager must overcome the sense of “vague” commitment barriers within the team. She must lay out team ground rules and actively promote boundaries within the team. Building a team shouldn’t involve including each team member in others’ action plans. Careful project management within the team allows individuals to commit to the performance of certain tasks. Team meetings allow the manager to check-off performed tasks and reached goals.

2. Each team member’s action plan distinguishes between the intention to perform needed tasks and the actuality of performing them. The manager should use ‘real-time planning’ methods whenever possible, to keep the team’s focus on what needs to occur now (instead of any future point).

3. “What’s next” thinking is the team’s language. Every team member continuously clarifies the a vision summary and organizes action priorities. Team members can’t wait to react. Employee engagement occurs because members of this manager’s team can’t wait to get to work every day. They are encouraged by their leader’s ability to decipher org changes or macroeconomic trends. Employee satisfaction is evident. The successful team isn’t static, and remains fueled by management trust.

Unsuccessful team-building delivers disadvantages. 
Almost every employee with at least five years’ work experience knows an unsuccessful team-builder in management. Perhaps the manager is a finance genius. She’s great at tweaking costs and saving money, but she doesn’t understand why people want to work together. According to Patrick Lencioni, (“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable,” 2010) this manager doesn’t see the big picture or the details. Managers know they’re failing at team-building when:

1. Too many internal team meetings populate the calendars of the team: the manager tends to micromanage his reports, and everyone on the team knows who’s got credibility with the manager (and who doesn’t). The manager breeds distrust and fails at facilitating collaboration. He seems to enjoy clipping the wings of those seeking to soar. People in sales and marketing positions spend too much time answering the manager’s questions or creating reports. Productivity suffers and the manager points fingers at the team. People call in sick and human resources gets involved with performance reviews.

2. Senior management hears that every member of the manager’s team is an underachiever. The manager decides she’s just got to lay-off a few people and rehire “her own people.”

3. Political unrest occurs in the team. The manager seems to encourage time-wasting. Positive reinforcement by the manager does not happen. Ever. Employee satisfaction is non-existent. Everyone on the team, including the manager, is looking for a new job.

Conclusion. 
Employees want to work with others in teams because they enjoy social behavior. Not all teams come together without masterful management orchestration. The successful team-building manager is hands-on, but not too much. Team-building is an advantage because employees desire positive reinforcement. In conclusion, satisfied employees are happy, long-term contributors of the organization.

Are employee surveys a good way to create engagement?

 Hearing employee survey concerns and taking the proper action is one of the number one ways of increasing employee engagement.

Employee engagement  by surveysMost successful companies place their employees on the top of the list high priority resources. As a result, they are concerned with keeping their employees engaged and active in all of the company’s goals and objectives. However, to keep their ears at the heart of their employees’ concerns and issues, some companies are using employee surveys as a method to create employee engagement.

Creating Engagement by Asking the Right Questions
while some companies are well-versed in getting the data that’s needed to take action, others may need additional guidance to ensure the right information is collected from their surveys. Therefore, these companies must design their surveys so that they collect precise data on key topics instead of abstract or vague information. For example, if a company would like to find out what type of training is needed to facilitate better job performance, they should include a question on the survey that focuses on the best types of training courses needed (i.e. formal classroom training courses, interactive training, online courses etc.). Since there is a wide diversity of training courses available today, most employees may prefer to take the non-traditional online courses instead of formal classroom traditional training. By asking the employees the type that they prefer in a survey form, the management in the company can respond accordingly. In some cases, the responses may be split 50/50. Consequently, the management may want to add an additional training option to their curriculum so that these employees can work at their own pace.

Employee Buy-In and Major Decisions
Employee surveys are also a great way to give the employees buy-in when major changes are being made. For instance, when a company has to make major changes because of external forces, employees are often more engaged when they have had some input into making the new procedures. So, if the company includes a question about the upcoming changes in a survey, they can give the employees buy-in and obtain valuable information as well.

Inspiration resources for this post:
http://www.custominsight.com/employee-engagement-survey/

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