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Good communication can hugely lift employee engagement
By Kim Harrison,
Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com
Based on an article in Workforce Week
Communicators hold a powerful position. We can influence the way things are done at work. As a manager or supervisor, we can engage our direct reports in an enlightened way.
As communicators, we can emphasize good practice in employee relations. We can highlight with examples and case studies the benefits that arise from good employee engagement.
Although much of the attention in the dominant US public relations space is on media relations and marketing communication, research shows the reality is that at least half of all PR activity is internal – and therefore it is a crucial area of PR practice.
These are the overall findings of ‘The Relationship between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes’ report by Gallup Inc. More than 1,000 US employees were interviewed for the report. Gallup segmented management styles into three categories, based on employee perceptions:
Approximately 37% of employees said their bosses concentrate on strengths, while 11% said their managers focus solely on negative characteristics. Gallup reported that 25% of employees surveyed fall into an ‘ignored’ category, in which their supervisors address neither strengths nor weaknesses. Around 27% of people did not express strong opinions about their managers either way.
The differing approaches reflect back varying levels of engagement. About 61% of employees in the ‘strengths’ group report being engaged in their jobs. Still, 38% of those workers remain disengaged despite the positive feedback, perhaps because they believe the praise is not sincere, according to Gallup. About 1% of employees whose managers are focused on strengths are considered to be ‘actively disengaged,’ meaning they may act on their job frustration.
By contrast, engagement is considerably lower - around 45% - for employees whose managers focus primarily on negative characteristics. One-third of such workers are disengaged. Most alarming: 22% are considered to be actively disengaged.
The worst engagement scores can be found in the ‘ignored’ category, where only 2% of employees are highly engaged. About 57% report being not engaged and 40% are actively disengaged.
So while emphasizing strengths gives the strongest boost to engagement, even negative feedback is better than no feedback at all, according to Gallup.
“We found it is better for managers to dwell on some aspect of employee performance—even if it is on negatives - than to avoid the matter altogether,” said Jim Harter, a Gallup research scientist and co-author of the report.
Harter says negative feedback “at least lets people know that they matter,” while neglecting them can be far worse.
Why bother to increase employee engagement? Is it just a ‘feel good’ factor? Not according to Gallup, who estimated the cost of lost productivity from disengaged employees within the US workforce at more than $300 billion per year.
The report is based on Gallup’s famous Q12 Index, which asks a dozen questions to identify the presence of the factors that are known to affect engagement:
Engaged employees are fully involved in and enthusiastic about their work, and therefore will act in a way that furthers their organization's interests. Employee engagement is a measure of an employee's emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization which greatly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work. Engagement is different from employee satisfaction, motivation and organisational culture; being satisfied doesn’t mean you are necessarily engaged in your role.
What can communicators do to increase employee engagement?
Internal measurement specialist Angela Sinickas states it clearly: ‘the single largest driver of employee engagement is the strength of the communication link between employees and supervisors.’ She says that puts communicators in a critical position to help drive the bottom line.
Internal communication expert Rodney Gray believes the best types of direct communication needed to increase engagement are:
He says other ways to strengthen engagement levels are to:
Notice how all these actions depend on effective communication.
About the Author
Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website, www.cuttingedgepr.com, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.
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