Strategy

Employee Engagement Model – The Strategy of Engagement

It might sound like it’s stating the obvious but, the more engaged employees are, the more they think, feel and act in a manner which seems to show greater levels of commitment to their employer. It’s not unreasonable to argue that engaged staff contribute more, using all their knowledge, skills and talents to help the organization succeed; crucially encouraging those around them to do likewise.

Why does engagement matter?

Beyond the financial rewards of working for a company, employees need to feel they are a valued part of the organization. This goes deep down into our fundamental nature as a social species. We value the views and feedback of those around us. The more they show appreciation for the work we do, the greater the effort we put in.

According to Social Neuroscientist Pascal Vrticka, our brains are evolved so that we literally, “experience reward during mutual social interactions,” to the extent we can have feelings, similar to physical pain when we feel we’ve been socially ostracised or have been frowned upon by others.

So, whilst a salary (an extrinsic reward) will pay the bills, put food on the table and give people the financial freedom to make use of their free time, research suggests that simply giving staff more money will not result in better performance or, crucially, greater engagement. To experience engagement employees need to both feel valued by their colleagues and managers whilst also valuing the nature of the work they do. 

Model Behaviour

Pop the term ‘employee engagement’ into your search service of choice and you’ll be met by a barrage of models. Yet, at their heart, whether it’s Sirota’s Three-Factor Model of Engagement or the Zinger counterpart, they each suggest a range of necessary actions in order to maximize employee commitment.

If we look at Zinger, it suggests that Employee Engagement comes from a variety of internal and external factors which can be positively influenced. An internal factor could be the organization developing the employee personally and professionally, as employees who grow with the organization are that much more connected to their place of work and, “always ready to walk that extra mile to achieve success for it”.

Sirota’s strategy for engagement makes a greater emphasis on behaviors and pinpoints three key forms:

  • Intellectual engagement
  • Emotional engagement
  • Behavioral engagement

In turn, to maximize employee engagement, Sirota’s model suggests organizations need to satisfy three further ‘primary engagement factors’ — Achievement, Camaraderie, and Equity.

Achievement focuses on an employee taking pride in his/her accomplishments by doing things that matter and doing them effectively, to gain recognition for these accomplishments whilst also taking pride in the organization’s accomplishments.

Camaraderie is about enjoying warm, interesting, and cooperative relationships with workplace colleagues; having a sense of community, belonging, and companionship and cooperation between colleagues who share responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Equity is about staff feeling they are treated fairly in regard to their fundamental conditions of employment in comparison with others in the organization.

A Strategy for Engagement?

Plainly there are a host of potential factors which come into play within the dynamic of any organization, large and small. However, we can begin to see that there are some valuable indicators for what will make an effective Engagement Model:

  1. It needs to recognize that staff are individuals and their motivations will be different; affected by specific and unique circumstances.
  2. It needs to adapt and evolve based on quantifiable metrics such as measuring increases (or decreases) in employee engagement with their work, colleagues, and managers.
  3. It needs to be flexible.
  4. It needs buy-in from the organization’s leadership.

Engagement Strategy in Practice

Taking the last point, a great example comes from specialist clothing retailer Patagonia. Based in California. Talking about employee churn, Scott Mautz explains, “…when we see companies like Patagonia posting an incredible 4 percent turnover rate (the retail and consumer product sector average is more than triple that at 13 percent), we can’t help but look to them…” 

In fact, the company leadership believes that people should not be at work while they’re ill or hang around after official hours to prove their company loyalty. Employees have flexible schedules that they set themselves based on achieving results. This extends to part-time staff who work 20 hours a week.

They are eligible for health insurance, sick leave and vacation time. Parents even get 16 weeks of maternity leave. These practices attract and retain talent. Staff churn is very low, and employees are deeply loyal and, crucially, buy into the company ethos and vision. They are about as engaged as they can be.

Engagement Game Changer

Having a genuine interest in staff and their needs beyond the paycheck is possibly the single most important step on any journey an organization wants to make to a workable strategy for staff engagement.

You could sum it up as: if you want your staff to care about the company, you need to care about your staff. Only then can you begin to tease out the different factors that will matter most to different groups and individuals in the organization.

But it’s a worthwhile enterprise, as it will bring together valuable insights into what makes the organization tick and how to better optimize the workplace — for staff, for management, and for the business’s ultimate objectives.

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