3 Reasons to Pay Attention to Employee Engagement

To “set the table” for this discussion, please allow me to share some data.  These statistics compare the results of companies that invest in their employees’ experience with those that do not.  The study shows that  businesses making that investment have an employee growth rate 1.5 times higher than those that are not.  Employee pay is also 1.5 times higher.  Their average revenue is 2.1 times higher.  Their average profit is 4.2 times higher. Their revenue per employee is 2.8 times higher.  Their average profit per employee is 4.0 times higher.  (Source: The Employee Experience Advantage, By Jacob Morgan—Wiley 2017)  Relative to the challenge made in the title of this piece, those are pretty compelling facts.  I could probably stop there, but I won’t.

As significant as those figures are, they are not the only reason you should be paying close attention to the engagement of your people.  Such statistics are simply a byproduct of the cultural standards those companies have deliberately nurtured and reinforced.  Those businesses are experiencing those kinds of results because they treat engagement as something organic.  It is not an outcome they are strategizing or manipulating into existence.  Instead, it reflects the natural response employees are having to being treated as growth partners and working in an environment where their unique abilities can flourish.  People respond to that kind of treatment by engaging.

Employees have a positive experience in the workplace when they observe authenticity in the way company owners and leaders deal with the people employed by them and there is operational integrity in all aspects of the business.  This creates a high trust, high confidence culture where individuals are not distracted by concerns about their place in the organization.  Over time, that kind of culture creates its own momentum because the employees become the enforcers of the organization’s performance standards, not just the company leaders.

All of which leads to the main theme of this article.  There are at least three reasons why all this data should matter to you and why now it’s more critical than ever that you figure out how to achieve greater employee engagement.

The 3 Reasons

Paying attention to employee engagement does not guarantee you will get the same results referenced above.  However, it is safe to say that ignoring the experience your employees are having will guarantee you won’t achieve them.  But beyond that, the issue is not simply about making the progress you want.  The issue is that if you don’t pay attention to employee engagement, you will see your company regress.  It will decline.  There are three reasons why this is true.

1. Because you will always be competing for great people—including those already working for you.

I assume you realize there are a number of recruiters reaching out right now to your top employees, trying to get them to switch loyalty to their companies.  Why can you assume that?  Because there are more key positions available in the talent market currently than there are skilled and educated people to fill them.  That’s just a statistical reality.  As a result, the businesses represented in the statistics quoted earlier are not sitting idly by, waiting and hoping the people they’re looking for will just showing up on their doorstep.  They are proactively seeking them out.

What are your chances of holding onto the people you have, no less attracting the ones you have yet to recruit, if your competitors have been honing their employee experience and you have not?  Their leverage is in the employer brand they have created.  Without that kind of attraction power, your company lose the talent competition.  It’s just common sense.

2. Because your company’s future depends on committed, passionate people. 

I am always confused when I hear chief executives talk about their aggressive growth plans and, in the same breath, express frustration at the lack of commitment their people have to the company vision.  It’s as though they think their employees will, of their own accord, figure out what an awesome thing it would be for the business to succeed.  They seem to miss that unless the individuals working in their companies make a personal connection with the owners’ vision, are made to feel like they are a critical player in its fulfillment, understand the strategic purpose of their role and are provided the resources and experience needed to succeed, their growth expectations are pipe dreams.

Sooner or later, your people will decide either to become your allies or your adversaries.  They can help you achieve your goals or they can sabotage them.  If they choose to do the latter, they will probably leave, but not before doing significant damage.  And once they go, they will share the negative experience they had with your company with anyone who will listen; some of whom may be the very people you want to recruit. 

3. Because employees are investing in you, you are not just investing in them. 

Certainly, there was a time when employers could get away with treating their people like they were lucky to have a job.  I assume I don’t have to tell you those days are long gone.  But even if employers could “get away” with that approach before, it was certainly the wrong philosophy to adopt.  Sooner or later, things turn around and people begin having options.  If their experience with your company up to that point had been negative, they would bail on you the first chance they had—and your overtures to keep them would have fallen on deaf ears.

In today’s environment, skilled employees are the ones with the leverage.  As a result, they are evaluating the investment they will be making in your organization as much or more than you are evaluating your investment in them.  There is an opportunity cost to key people if they join an organization that does not live up to what it purports to be; where promises are unfulfilled, or resources needed for success are not made available, as they were assured they would be.  They picked your company instead of another because of the value proposition you made.  If the value offer turns out to be hollow, the employee views it as a moral betrayal and you never recover.  Therefore, you must be clear in what you communicate about the experience someone will have in your organization, and then deliver on it.

Let’s face it.  We live in a unique business age.  The world has never seen anything like it before.  The nature of the employer-employee relationship has changed.  The employee experience must be among the company’s highest priorities and given attention by the most senior people in the organization.  Companies that do end up with an unbeatable culture that drives sustained success.