Human Resource Managers spend time, effort and company resources in their bid to address factors that impact employee engagement levels. Employees who are engaged in their work are attentive, dedicated, highly productive and have a deep emotional connection to their workplace.
Although engaged employees are more productive, less than 30% of the global workforce is engaged, and less than 20% of employees believe that their current manager can engage them. Concerningly, employee engagement is on a continuing global decline. Yet, many organisations believe that employee engagement is a dominant source of competitive advantage.
For this article, we look at a US study that explores factors that impact employee engagement from the employee’s perspective to inform human resource professionals and provide strategies that they can use.
Workplace Environments Impact Employee Engagement
The workplace environment consists of the people who work together, organisational policies and procedures, the structure of the organisation, the physical layout of the workspace and intangible elements such as trust, cooperation and perceived levels of safety. They all contribute to the creation of an organisation’s culture.
Employees make sense of the values, beliefs and standards of the organisation depending on their level of engagement or disengagement. The organisation’s culture provides clues to employees on how to behave and what is acceptable. Consequentially, the workplace environment is the first factor to impact employee engagement.
Organisations could work to better understand and build on environmental and personal factors by conducting varying levels of needs analyses to identify and meet existing challenges and to make improvements for the future. They can use the data to inform policies and procedures that increase levels of trust and safety as well as provide organisation development where it has the most significant impact.
HR professionals can develop strategies aimed at improving environmental and personal factors linking them to the goals and culture of their organisation. Examples of broad-level engagement strategies include:
- Enhancing communication networks to be more open and transparent,
- Encouraging managers to hold one-on-one meetings that are driven by the employee, not the manager, and
- Creating processes and procedures that encourage team projects, knowledge sharing and group collaboration.
See our article, Employee Engagement, Burnout, Stress – Signs and Tips.
Managers Play a Critical Role in Developing Engagement
The second factor to impact employee engagement is their manager. Organisational culture drives employee engagement, but managers drive the organisational culture. Because a manager is one of the most inﬂuential people in an employee’s work-life, their ability to impact employee engagement or disengagement is high.
How a manager acts, their philosophy about how we should work, and their knowledge influence their employee’s perception of the work environment. But it’s the level of trust, the feeling of being valued and the simple act of feeling that their manager listens to them that increases employee engagement.
Managers who aggressively react when employees make mistakes, create a threatening environment. Here, employees view full engagement in work is risky and less safe and are subsequently de-motivated. However, managers who balance their feedback with an element of care create healthy and often more productive work environments.
It’s critical that organisations carefully recruit managers and improve their skills through development processes. Great managers positively impact employee engagement levels. Typically, we hire and promote managers into positions of inﬂuence with little to no training on what their new management responsibilities mean. At recruitment, the characteristics to look for include that the manager is a
- Collaborative developer of mission, vision and organisational values
- Creator of a humanistic work environment
- Developer of people, builder of capabilities
- Initiator of organisation-wide communications
- Role model of emotional intelligence
- Utiliser of strategic data
- Change agent.
Finally, accountability is critical to building engagement culture. Organisations can measure employee engagement accountability by linking performance appraisals to equally-weighted measures of business and organisational culture performance. However, they should measure not only what a manager accomplishes, but how they do what they do.
See our article, Best Manager Actions for Employee Mental Health.
Employee’s Personality Can Affect Engagement
Every employee is unique, and their personality has a direct effect on their engagement levels at work. When determining how to improve engagement levels, you should consider the capacity, motivation, and the freedom of each employee to engage.
Employees need to feel that they are competent, valued and purposeful in their work. And organisations must inform employees of what they expect, provide resources to complete their work and support them with focused and balanced feedback.
Work is an engaging experience when job roles are interesting, challenging and meaningful. Also, employees need autonomy to allow them to get the work done.
The alignment of employee values to the organisation’s values should start at recruitment and continue through focus groups, team meetings and treating employees with respect.
Trust is imperative to encourage engagement. Communicating with transparency, demonstrating integrity and behaving consistently, builds trust to impact employee engagement positively.
Also, job fit is crucial. Organisations could focus on deﬁning, attracting and retaining talent that has a good degree of job ﬁt. Because employees who experience a reasonable degree of job ﬁt are more likely to engage with their work and be more productive.
See our article, Psychological Resilience and Stress: Reduce the Risk.
Low Employee Engagement Negatively Impacts Mental Health
Employees who feel under-valued that they may not be trusted or have limited autonomy in their work may also have low self-worth and poor mental health. Self-worth is directly linked to good mental health, and employees need to feel safe to reach out and seek help when things are not going so well. Crucially, much of an employee’s self-worth is connected to their level of engagement at work.
Certain work situations increase the risk of employee’s experiencing a decline in their mental health. High job demands, low job control, high effort and reward imbalances, low relational justice, low procedural justice, role stress, bullying and low social support are associated with a higher risk of employees developing depression and anxiety.
Other factors that impact employee engagement and lead to declining mental health include low distributive and informational justice, organisational change, job insecurity, temporary employment status and atypical working hours. These factors interact with individual personality characteristics, attitudes and coping styles to produce speciﬁc strains on employee mental health.
Organisations can offer training to teach effective coping strategies to build resilience and encourage employee engagement. The Tap into Safety online and mobile-friendly platform has comprehensive mental health literacy training as well as some new micro-learning courses to help you support your employees.
- Helping Employees with Mental Health Concerns
- Managing Your Employees
- Signs of Declining Mental Health in Employees
- Identifying and Managing Psychosocial Hazards
See our article, How Can Work Impact Employee Mental Health?
Excellent employee engagement leads to productive and high-functioning organisations. However, less than 30% of the global workforce is engaged in their work.
There are three factors organisations need to consider when embarking on strategies to increase employee engagement. First, the workplace environment is critical. Organisational policies and procedures, the structure of the organisation, the physical layout of the workspace and intangible elements such as trust, cooperation and perceived levels of safety, all play a vital part. Critically, HR professionals need to develop strategies aimed at improving environmental and personal factors linking them to the goals and culture of their organisation.
The second factor to impact employee engagement is their manager. How a manager acts, their philosophy about how we should work, and their knowledge influence their employee’s perception of the work environment. But it’s the level of trust, the feeling of being valued and the simple act of feeling that their manager listens to them that promotes engagement.
Third, the employee’s personality directly impacts their level of engagement with their work and the organisation. Employees need to feel that they are competent, valued and purposeful in their work. And, organisations must inform employees of what they expect, provide resources to complete the job and support them with focused and balanced feedback.
Finally, employees who feel under-valued, that they may not be trusted or have limited autonomy in their work may also have poor mental health.