“Leaders often say that their organization’s greatest asset is its people — but in reality, this is only true when those employees are fully engaged in their jobs.”
This sentence from the Gallup report, State of the Global Workplace, sums up the relevance of engagement management today in companies worldwide.
This report shows how employee engagement directly affects their performance, leading to improvements across many critical factors for the company such as customer perception, productivity, sales volumes, absenteeism and more.
Engagement also directly impacts other key issues such as workforce motivation or the company’s capacity for employee retention. Yet this report also revealed that only 13% of employees worldwide were engaged with their organizations, so engagement management has become the top priority of CEOs worldwide.
In previous articles, we analyzed various aspects of engagement management. This time we would like to discuss different components, categories and items of measurement in engagemen management using the work of various academics and analysts.
One of the first observations made when analyzing engagement came from John P. Meyer and Natalie Allen in 1991, when there was barely any talk about engagement in business. Back then, the term "employee commitment" was used as in "How much do I want to be here?" The academics started out with a psychological analysis of commitment which interpreted (a) the employee's relationship with the organization and (b) the implications for the employee’s decision to continue within it.
These authors differentiate three separable components of organizational commitment:
- Affective commitment: refers to the emotional attachment, identification and involvement with the organization. Employees with a strong affective commitment still belong to the company because they want to.
- Continuance commitment: refers to the awareness of the costs involved when leaving the organization. It is a major bond they stay within the organization because they need it.
- Normative commitment: reflects a sense of obligation to belong to the organization. Employees with this type of commitment feel they must stay with the company out of a moral duty.
Although the term engagement first appeared in the nineties as mentioned earlier, it is not until the next decade when we see it develop into"employee engagement" today, understood as "Do I feel that my work matters and will I invest discretionary effort?" This definition emerged from various academics and organizations like Gallup, as already mentioned. It is worth noting that the term has continued to evolve since the decade marked by 2010, and now we are talking about "sustainable engagement",understanding this as "Am I enabled and supported to do my best work?"
When talking about engagement, usually the various factors that shape it are grouped into basic categories. Gartner identifies 5 basic categories for engagement in the report "Measuring Employee Engagement: Past, Present & Future" *:
- Current job understanding— The extent to which the employee believes they know what is required to perform well in their current position, and that they have received the right training, coaching, tools and resources to be successful.
- Relationship with the direct supervisor— The extent to which the employee believes they have a good relationship with their manager; and that their manager understands their job and the issues they are facing, and removes obstacles that may inhibit competent performance, and is looking out for their future growth and development.
- Perception of senior leadership— The extent to which the employee believes that the senior leaders of the organization are capable and moving the organization toward a better future (such as market dominance, achievement of financial targets, or accomplishment of the organization's mission).
- Opportunities for growth and career development— The extent to which the employee believes that their stay with the organization can be more than just a short-term "job," and they have the chance to develop their skills and have a longer-term career.
- Work conditions — The extent to which fundamental elements of the job or organization affect engagement, such as inadequate compensation or benefits, lack of enabling technologies, workplace or organizational structural issues that inhibit efficient operations. Note that because these elements are not considered intrinsic motivational factors, they often do not drive engagement positively when they are done well, but they can seriously detract from overall engagement when they are done poorly.
Interestingly, often when talking about engagement, there is a tendency to think of work conditions (salary, for example) as a factor for improving engagement. However Gartner mentions that work conditions are not factors in themselves for improving engagement; satisfying these do not directly lead to better engagement, yet they are required to ensure against negative scores.
Items for measuring engagement
Having described the engagement component sand categories, we should move on to establish the items for measuring engagement. When assessing engagement, organizations often aided by expert companies settleon a number of criteria or items to measure, typically ranging from three to fifteen factors. These items usually belong to any of the five categories mentioned previously. Gallup identifies 12 items it measures through its Q12 survey:
- "I know what is expected of me at work."
- "I have the material and the tools I need to do my job right."
- "At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day."
- "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work."
- "My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person".
- "There is someone at work who encourages my development."
- "At work, my opinions seem to count."
- "The mission and purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important."
- "My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work."
- "I have a best friend at work".
- "In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress."
- "This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow."
It is worth observing how these items are arranged as “more to less", from when an employee joins the organization with the first steps (Q1, Q2, etc) until the employee is fully engaged along side the last ones (Q11, Q12).
Measure the antecedents and consequences, and take action
In a recent article titled "8 commonerrors when trying to evaluate people engagement", Ana Peñaranda, Director of People Transformation at Tatum and one of our expert collaborators on engagement, stressed that when measuring engagement it’s not enough to just apply an evaluation scale “to engagement to infer the reasons for the engagement level obtained from this measurement". It is important to "measure the reasons for engagement".
At the same time, the expert also mentions the need to "measure the consequences of engagement" stating that, "One of the biggest challenges for the HR function, and where it often fails, is to measure the effect of their actions on the achievement of business goals.”
Ana Peñaranda also adds,"An organization needs to know its level of engagement, the factors of the experience that most impact it, and the professional behaviour derived from this engagement. Then with all this information, start to make the right decisions on which actions and groups to dedicate efforts for boosting engagement."
* Source: Gartner, Measuring Employee Engagement: Past, Present, Future, Helen Poitevin, Ron Hanscome, Yvette Cameron April 3, 2015, Gartner Foundational April 2016