Should you invest in improving employee engagement? What's in it for your organisation? What will it cost you to improve it? And, most importantly, what will it cost you NOT to do so?
This is a conversation I have with many Chief Executives in the engineering sector.
Efforts to build employee engagement are most successful when they're led from the top, and that takes time and energy – time and energy that Chief Executives don't immediately have to spare. So, if you're going to invest in leading the focus on greater employee engagement across your organisation, you want to know it's worth your personal effort.
The good news is that the evidence of the benefits employee engagement brings is compelling and in this post I'll highlight the five that I find most directly appeal to Chief Execs.
1. It encourages innovation
Whether your engineering firm is primarily focussed on finding new solutions to solve problems or implementing existing solutions to fix problems, your engineers need to do this faster, cheaper and better than the competition.
Engineering companies who are second to the post or offer more expensive solutions at lower quality go out of business.
But to get faster, cheaper and better, you need engineers in your organisation to be continually innovating. You might be seeking to do this by implementing 'lean' practices or have an Innovation Suite in your Head Office. Maybe you emphasise the need to 'think outside the box'.
However, you're wasting time, money and effort if your people aren't engaged in the first place.
The link between engagement and innovation is proven time and again. In 2014, Gallup reported that engaged employees "...are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward."
2. It gets rid of the 'silo' mentality
If you're aware that a 'silo' mentality exists in your organisation, you'll already see the evidence that it's costing your business in every area, from new product design to customer service, and is the cause of all kinds of time-consuming conflict.
And doesn't it drive you mad when you see different divisions of your business actually working against each other as if they're in competition with one another?
Increasing engagement across your organisation will make a significant contribution to removing the barriers that silo mentality creates. To do so, engagement must be driven right from senior leaders, including the Chief Executive (I've worked with plenty of Chief Executives who led with a 'divide and rule' mentality) and flow to every part of the business.
As Evan Rosen points out in this post on Bloomberg Business:
"In the product design arena, command-and-control organizations inform factory workers what they'll be building and how. These workers are on a need-to-know basis. Collaborative organizations engage factory workers in the design of the products and the manufacturing processes."
3. It means you attract and retain talented people
In 2013, the Manpower Group’s Global Talent Shortage Survey showed that the top two shortages for jobs worldwide were for skilled trades workers and engineers – the same result as in 2012.
In particular, mechanical, electrical and civil engineers were found to be in short supply. So, chances are that one of the issues on your pad as Chief Executive will be the attraction and retention of engineering talent.
Employee engagement gives your organisation the opportunity to go beyond the cliché. If you really believe that employees are your most valuable asset – more valuable, for example, than plant, machinery, intellectual property or shareholders (makes you think, doesn't it?) – then great employee engagement will not only encourage talent to join you, it will determine whether it stays.
To put a figure on it, employees who are engaged are 87% less likely to leave than those who aren't engaged (according to research by SHRM).
4. It builds leadership talent
Employee engagement begins from the top and requires talented leadership at every level – every day, long-term.
This means that committing to building employee engagement means that you are inevitably also committing to building leadership talent throughout your business.
Festo Didactic use the formula E = mc² but not in the way that Einstein intended. For Festo, this means:
Engagement = management action x communication
Put bluntly, you won't engage your people if your leaders and managers aren't engaging!
The skills your leaders develop in order to engage your people will also be the skills they need to engage your customers, to engage suppliers and to build a dynamic organisation.
5. It brings competitive advantage
If my first four benefits of employee engagement don't give you enough evidence to convince yourself that employee engagement should be a strategic priority, this final one will: engagement brings competitive advantage.
- Hay Group research shows that the 'World's Most Admired Companies' focus on employee engagement as a means to building competitive advantage
- In research by Ashridge, Engineering Consultancy Halcrow Group emphasise that creating strong employee engagement practices is a major contributor to business growth
- UK Government statistics demonstrate that an engaged workforce can increase revenue by 43% and profit by 12%
If you are a Chief Executive in the engineering sector wondering whether or not the investment of your time and effort in employee engagement is really worthwhile, here are five proven business benefits to convince you that it is. Employee engagement...
- ...encourages innovation
- ...gets rid of the 'silo' mentality
- ...means you attract and retain talented people
- ...builds leadership talent
- ...brings competitive advantage