Satisfied and innovative employees sound ideal and a dream come true for any manager. But did you know that there are positive and negative aspects to these attributes?
Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions explains: "Satisfied employees are loyal to the point that they have been around for longer than the furniture and although they bring a sense of continuity, they can only be trusted to do the same job they have always done; nothing more, nothing less. Innovative employees come in with fresh ideas, wanting to improve systems and while their energy and positivity seems like it will take the company to new heights, they don't stick around long enough to see their new ideas through."
What businesses really need are engaged employees.
"Engaged employees are passionate about their work, committed to the company and its goals and continuously go the extra mile. Engaged employees are the ones who lose track of time because they become so engrossed with the task at hand," Vittee details.Studies have shown that engaged employees are:
- Highly energetic, doing their jobs with passion,
- Loyal and less likely to leave their company,
- Productive, increasing profitability,
- Customer-centric, driving customer satisfaction and higher sales,
- Empowered, believing they can make a positive contribution to moving their company forward, and
- Overall, an engaged workforce will significantly improve a company's bottom line.
"What's the catch? Engaged employees are not born that way, they are made by the company for which they work. Staff are a company's largest investment and so, should bring the greatest return. However, they will only do this when they are viewed as individuals with the potential to bring about success and not as assets that need to be managed," the CEO emphasises.
To create an engaged workforce, companies need to tap into their employees' intrinsic motivators and find out what drives them. Although these drivers will differ between companies, studies have shown that the overarching stimulus is meaningfulness. "Employees want to know that what they are doing is meaningful, with regards to both the company's vision and their personal aspirations," says Vittee.Vittee explains that meaningfulness can be established in the following ways:
- Organisational Culture - Inspirational leadership, a clear vision, a strategic plan and established values will breed commitment in employees, making them feel that they are working towards something great which will motivate them to put extra effort into their work.
- Communication - Employees want to know that their performance matters to their company and need to receive constructive feedback. Similarly, they are made to feel part of the organisation when the company's news is regularly communicated to them. Without clear communication, morale will suffer.
- Quality Relationships - The level of engagement of an employee is closely linked to their relationship with their immediate manager. If this relationship is fractured, no incentives will be able to motivate the employee. Moreover the relationship between employees needs to be one of cooperation where everyone is pulling in the same direction to achieve a collective goal.
- Job Expectations - Clear job expectations give employees direction - enabling them to know not only what to achieve but how to go beyond expectations. The correct procedures and equipment need to be provided to enable employees to perform well. Failing to establish these will produce negative emotions and employees will focus more on surviving than helping the organisation to succeed.
- Employee Effectiveness - If employees are included in decision-making processes, feel there is a space for their ideas to be heard by managers and are given a sense of responsibility for their work, then they will feel that their role has meaning.
- Career Opportunities - Employees need to know that the work they are currently doing is a building block for greater opportunities and be given the space to develop their job. Otherwise, they will feel that they are only working for their paycheck and will do the minimum to get by.
However, Vittee points out that although it is the employer who needs to establish a workplace environment that fosters engagement, the responsibility to reciprocate, become engaged and gain meaning ultimately lies with the employee.
"Establishing employee engagement will require significant time and effort, but it should not be put on the backburner because the reality is that disengaged employees are unproductive employees," concludes Vittee.