It is now widely accepted that employee engagement is a critical source of competitive advantage, yet despite many Boardrooms claiming that they understand its strategic value, our own research identifies the fact that significant gaps still exist between employees and senior leaders across a variety of issues. The gaps are a cause for concern, particularly because engaged members of staff are synonymous with higher levels of customer service and customer satisfaction.
In ‘Leading by Example’, a report published by the Institute, it is clear that relatively few employees rate their CEO and Board of Directors highly for honesty and trustworthiness. A high proportion also remains unconvinced that senior leaders listen to their ideas.
Why this is still the case is something the Boardroom can ill afford to ignore. Engaged employees have a sense of pride in their work and a sense of freedom to perform. Combined, these two emotions provide a powerful force that drives productivity. So it is not just beneficial for organisations to resolve the issue; engaging employees will go some way towards reducing the productivity gap.
You often hear people describing themselves as ‘strictly left brained’ or ‘right brain dominant’. In my view, UK plc continues to struggle because we don’t allow enough development in our leaders to strike a balance between the two. There is always a place for logic and there is always room for creativity – but a successful organisation needs both. The problem is that it is too easy to accept that developing complementary skills is too difficult. I believe, however, that this is precisely why we – as a business community – should strive to tackle the problem.
Employees are motivated by a range of factors and good leaders are those who can identify which specific aspects matter to different members of their teams. The mistake that many continue to make is thinking that employee engagement is about focusing on outcomes when what really matters is unlocking an individual’s potential or knowing their motivators.
All of this matters because customer priorities are changing. Customers are more influenced today by employee attitude and behaviour. It means that customers increasingly judge organisations by the experience they have, the way the relationship is managed and how it makes them feel. These are all areas affected by how engaged employees are – because if staff connect with an organisation’s purpose, they are more likely to communicate their understanding and passion with the customer.
Employee engagement may not be a new phenomenon, but capitalising on the benefits it brings would involve breaking new ground for many organisations. In today’s competitive environment there is a real opportunity to shape new thinking about what employee engagement really means and how we truly provide the best opportunities to drive the very best from our people.