Is employee engagement a priority at your organization? Are you able to tell if your employees are actively engaged in their work or if they are simply going through the motions, all the while keeping an eye on the clock until it’s time to go home?

On the surface, it can be difficult to gauge an employee’s level of engagement. In fact, according to a 2009 Salary.com survey, employers overestimate the degree of extremely satisfied employees nearly two to one. Often companies do not delve deeper to explore how increasing employee engagement can impact the bottom line.

As the economy turns and business begins to pick up, your claim department is going to be taking on more projects and supporting heavier workloads. A team’s level of success will likely be contingent on employees’ commitment and dedication to the company. What will you do if your top claim professionals leave your organization for a company that is also seeing an uptick in business? Productivity will be sacrificed, as a search for replacement talent ensues. As new opportunities become available to employees, managers’ mindsets that employees are “lucky to just have a job” in the current economy will result in a workforce that is quick to jump ship. Take a step back and consider the programs that may have been cut in the past year at your organization. It is often the case that morale and development programs are the first to go during cutbacks. It is important to rebuild these programs and to develop a staff that is truly committed to your organization and its work.

Engagement means more than having employees who work overtime or who take on extra projects. An engaged staff understands your organization’s goals, can clearly communicate their roles in achieving those goals, and can discuss how they impact the overall success of your organization. Furthermore, engaged employees have a visible commitment to that success. Generally, companies with engaged employees have more satisfied customers, generate higher revenue, and are more efficient.

Finding and capitalizing on the connection between employees and your organization is the key to drawing that extra effort. By increasing employee engagement, your company can raise each individual’s performance and therefore the company’s performance.

The Benefits of an Engaged Staff

You may think that as long as your employees complete their work on time and at the desired standard achieving greater employee engagement will not have a significant impact on your organization. Keep in mind that there are several other benefits to having a motivated staff in addition to work output. Engaged employees:

  • Are more likely to recommend and speak highly of your organization to other individuals.
  • Take fewer sick days than unengaged employees.
  • Are more likely to stay with your organization.
  • Have a better attitude toward their work than other individuals.

One of the leading indicators of employee engagement is job satisfaction. Understandably, satisfied employees are more engaged in their work. There are several components of job satisfaction:

Trust. Do your employees trust the company’s executive management? Are they confident that the company will do the right thing for customers, shareholders, and employees?

Manager relationship. Managers are the employees’ closest link to the overall leadership of the company. They routinely serve as a liaison between the corporation and the employees, thus making this one of the most important factors in job satisfaction.

Understanding how work impacts overall company goals. If employees feel that the work they do is not relevant to the overall organization’s success, then they may feel unvalued. Communicate with your employees as to how their specific positions and projects roll up into the overall goals and successes of the company.

Growth and development opportunities. Employees should feel they are working toward a goal and believe they have the ability to grow within the organization, whether it is a vertical or lateral move. This increases the value of the skills, training, and experience they are gaining. Furthermore, the opportunity to develop skills and work on new projects prevents employees from becoming bored and stagnant in positions.

Company pride. To be fully engaged and satisfied in their roles, employees must take pride in the company, its management, and the products and/or services offered.

Coworker relationships. These connections at work greatly affect job satisfaction. Company events and work environments that are conducive to teambuilding yield higher levels of employee engagement.

The need for employee engagement starts when an employee is a potential candidate and continues through his or her tenure with the company.

Interviewing for Engagement

During the hiring process, determine the candidate’s skill, will, and fit. Does the prospect not only possess the skills necessary to perform the job but also the will to do what needs to be done? Does he or she fit into the culture of your organization? Take care to bring on employees who are a fit for your organization’s culture and who will thrive in your work environment. If an employee’s overall work style and desired company culture does not match your organization, then it is likely the relationship will fail. Listen to how the employee answers your questions about past work situations. Has the employee been engaged in past roles that were similar in nature? Identify candidates who exhibit traits that will likely lead to engagement in your organization.

When interviewing for corporate fit, the behavioral interview is an excellent technique. You may want to ask questions such as the following:

  • Would you tell me about a time you were overwhelmed because of conflicting deadlines? How did you respond? What was the outcome?
  • We often have to choose between what is right and what is best for the company. Give at least two examples of situations in which you faced this dilemma. How did you handle them?

These should solicit responses that describe a situation, the candidate’s thought process and actions taken, and the end result. Answers to behavioral interview questions also indicate how the candidate would act in a similar future situation. Remember to “hire tough” in order to “manage easy.”

A tremendous amount of effort goes into the selection process. However, the work does not end with that. Following the hiring process, employees should undergo a comprehensive orientation program. This could be a corporate program or it may be position/department-specific and may include formal training about the organization’s mission, values and history; meetings with other departments; a team lunch during the first week; and/or a series of trainings on company-specific processes. The new employee needs to be “sold” again during this orientation process, and he or she should clearly understand what is expected in the role, along with opportunities available to him or her.

This will help set the stage for employee engagement from the very beginning of the employer/employee relationship.

Maintaining Engagement

Employee engagement is an ongoing process, even with the best employees. It is your organization’s responsibility to continue to develop employees’ skills and grow their dedication to the company.

There are several programs you can employ to increase engagement in your organization. Mentorship programs assist less experienced employees by partnering them with individuals who are proven leaders within the company. Mentor/mentee relationships are less formal than a manager/employee relationship since the evaluation component is removed. Mentees are able to ask questions about moving forward in their own careers and gain advice from veterans who have been in the business for a much longer amount of time.

Career Development, Surveys, and Morale Programs

It is easy for companies to state that they value career development. Prove this to your employees with actual career development programs and a noticeable commitment to their professional growth. This may mean posting industry articles and resources on the intranet and offering lunch and learn programs, or even creating formal development programs where employees set goals and work with their managers to attain those goals.

To tailor engagement strategies to your specific organization, consider administering a survey to your current employees asking for suggestions to improve employee morale and professional engagement. The survey should be anonymous and encourage employees to share their thoughts and feedback about employee development programs, room for job growth, and feelings about upper management. This will not only give employees a voice, but it will also provide candid insight as to the staff’s level of satisfaction.

Offer employees a way to be heard by upper management. Form a committee dedicated to listening to employee requests and to identifying room for improvement in company morale and job satisfaction initiatives. This committee may be charged with organizing after-work happy hours and sports teams, acknowledging birthdays and company anniversaries, or developing reward programs to keep employees motivated. This committee can also serving as a collective company voice when sharing ideas and information with executive management.

Employee engagement is one of the most important initiatives in which your organization can invest. Gain an accurate view of where your employees stand with the company and how you can motivate them, address their concerns, and increase company loyalty. An engaged workforce is one of the most effective ways to move your organization forward and impact the bottom line.