August 21.2018, 7.49am

3 steps to connecting employee engagement to business outcomes

What can employee engagement do for your organisation and how can you harness it to achieve your business goals? Those are two of the defining questions of modern HR and it’s becoming apparent that engagement can’t be ignored.

Engagement has been shown to increase productivity, aid employee retention and improve profitability but is it something employees actually want? CoreHR’s Smart Talent Expects Report asked high performing employees what they wanted from an employer and the results were illuminating.

They wanted an employer that employs time and resources to develop them professionally (62 percent), one that listens to its employees (74 percent) and to be able to enjoy a good work-life balance (73 percent). Yet only 31 percent believed that their employer enabled them to reach their full potential and 49 percent would leave if their career expectations aren’t being met.

So what can you do to keep your people motivated, engaged and performing so that your business can recognise positive outcomes as a result?

1. Mine your HR data for valuable information

Knowing what your employees want means listening to what they have to say. Engagement surveys are a potent weapon in the HR arsenal but how can you link those survey results to your business outcomes and make the business case for engagement initiatives?

In an age of Big Data, workforce management software allows you to access real-time analytics across a range of employee performance metrics, from productivity to ROI and from attendance to customer satisfaction. CoreHR’s smart software can seamlessly relate employee survey results to real-time HR and payroll data to offer unprecedented business insights.

Analysing engagement surveys alone isn’t enough. You need to use workforce analytics to view this data within the context of data from your integrated HR system. Only then can you start to chart a clear link between engagement and business results.

Just 21 percent of employees reported that they were fully engaged in a global survey. That’s a lot of workers who are unsatisfied. By introducing engagement programmes and measuring the results, you can stop enforcing a top-down, one size fits all approach to employee engagement and make more informed decisions about what your workforce want and need at an individual level.

Are their skills being properly utilised or do they require further training as part of their professional development? CoreHR’s Talent Analytics lets you formulate a career progression plan to keep employees feeling valued and to allow them to reach their potential. It allows you to set goals, chart a path for them within your organisation and to recognise their achievements.

CoreHR’s engagement tools include a leaderboard app that uses gamification to promote productivity and morale in your workplace. You can also share personal praise to take a hands-on approach to motivation. The software’s peer-to-peer feedback can be a valuable tool to develop teamwork and cultivate an engaged, open and honest culture within the workforce.

Mobile access to a single dashboard where they can check their progress, access performance reviews and interact with colleagues also empower your workers. And an empowered workforce is an engaged workforce.

2. Link engagement to key performance benchmarks

Every business has different interpretations of business success so you need to consider the factors that constitute a positive business outcome. The key is to identify metrics that equate to success or failure for your organisation or even for individual departments.

The 3M company conducted a study of its business laboratories to measure the relationship between engagement and innovation since innovation is a key factor in profitability in its industry. It found that labs with more engaged employees were more innovative and produced more products.

Technology company Infosys analysed its HR data against its customer satisfaction data to find a positive link between engagement and customer satisfaction. This came on the back of another study that found that its business units with the most engaged workforce consistently produced the highest profits.

Online retailer Zappos qualified business success in terms of a “Service-Profit Chain,” which establishes a relationship between profitability/customer loyalty and employee satisfaction/loyalty/productivity. This model is specific to a service industry but the key is to establish an equivalent model that can be applied to your organisation or team.

Real-time workforce analytics make it easier than ever to compare the ebb and flow of employee engagement across departments or teams to the corresponding productivity and profitability. That HR data then lets you adopt evidence-based actions to influence employee engagement and to test the business outcomes of those actions.

You can also use these performance metrics to form the basis of a performance management strategy. Employees who hit targets or achieve goals based on key performance benchmarks should be rewarded appropriately. Rewards help to align their goals with that of the company and, with a clear correlation between recognition and engagement, recognition is key to engaging your workforce. Bersin’s 2018 High-Impact Rewards Survey revealed that 80 percent of organisations are “significantly lagging” behind employees’ rewards expectations.

It’s a simple formula. Engagement drives productivity and rewarding this productivity will only create more engagement and lead to more productivity.

3. Make employee engagement a core strategy

Creating a link between employee engagement and business outcomes requires that you embrace employee engagement as a core business strategy. Only then can you begin to measure its effectiveness. Companies like Philips include engagement levels on its end-of-year results and fully embracing engagement initiatives gives you the data you need to draw meaningful business conclusions.

Employee engagement has already been established as a way to tackle time and attendance issues. We know that employee engagement increases productivity and aids retention so it seems obvious that this is a strategy that results in positive business outcomes.

Five key elements drive engagement, according to research from Deloitte. These elements include meaningful work, hands-on management, a positive work environment, growth opportunity and trust in leadership.

Leadership, line managers, employee voice and organisational integrity are fundamental to any employee engagement strategy, according to a UK MacLeod review. So the success of any strategy will rely on it being implemented and embraced from the top-down.

Have a clear strategy and think of every intervention or piece of analysis as an experiment designed to help you calculate the impact engagement has on your bottom line. What’s your hypothesis, what do the results tell you, and what can you do differently to enable fact-based decisions that will benefit the company’s bottom line?

Ultimately, the goal is to establish long-term, evidence-driven strategies that can foster engagement with a view to achieving predetermined business outcomes.

Alistair BrownBy Alistair Brown

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