Human Resources (HR) has transformed since the function was created more than 100 years ago. HR departments of the 20th century were largely tied up with administrative tasks, but today they are increasingly focused on employee engagement.
Psychologist William Kahn coined the term employee engagement in the 1990s. He described it as an employee’s ability to harness their ’full self’ at work.
Employee engagement should be a company-wide mission, but HR teams have a critical role to play.
HR’s role in Employee Engagement is:
- Giving every employee a voice by inviting regular, anonymous feedback
- Supporting managers in actioning staff feedback
- Designing and build the best possible employee experience
- Assisting the C-suite in shaping company strategy
HR’s role in Employee Engagement is not:
- Collating company-wide feedback just once a year
- Taking sole responsibility for everything relating to employee experience
How has Employee Engagement traditionally been addressed?
Organisations have traditionally focussed on their customers’ needs, and overlooked employee engagement.
At most, companies carried out an annual staff survey. HR departments spent weeks collecting feedback before a consultancy analysed the findings – a stage that typically took around two months. HR would then use the findings to build action plans for managers.
But, until technology transformed the cumbersome process, annual surveys were not hugely effective. Some managers distrusted the findings, and issues had often moved on by the time the process was complete. Annual surveys may have even harmed engagement levels, especially if employees felt it was a one-way conversation.
Today, organisations are beginning to embrace ‘continuous listening’. They gather feedback frequently, digitally and anonymously, and are unlocking the value of quickly acting upon it.
Which elements of Employee Engagement should HR take ownership of?
Giving everyone a voice
- Today’s HR teams have a pivotal role to play in employee engagement. Ownership over the staff survey process means HR has the power to give every individual in an organisation a voice. With the right tech, HR can encourage employees to speak up and help drive the change they want to see. Just knowing you’re being listened to can boost your engagement levels. And when your feedback is acted upon, that engagement spikes further still. While annual surveys previously weighed down HR teams, data collection and analytics tools – such as those we create at Peakon – have now made it easy for them to gather regular and anonymous feedback. Responses are collated, contextualised, and transformed into actionable insights within minutes.
- HR departments can use these employee insights to empower managers too. Peakon gives managers live access to their feedback, which means they are more compelled to work with HR to develop an action plan. Good managers are a key ingredient for high employee engagement and, therefore, future business success.
Designing Employee Experience
- HR can improve employee engagement by focusing on the end-to-end employee experience. Just as customer experience aims to improve the customer journey, employee experience aims to improve an employee’s work life. This involves changing systems, policies and behaviours across a whole organisation. With real-time staff insights in their professional tool belts, HR teams are well positioned to help design and build the best possible employee experience.
- HR teams can also lift engagement scores by supporting the C-Suite in top-level decision making. HR professionals with relevant data at their fingertips can help inform company strategy and drive future growth. They can also make sure that employee engagement remains top of the agenda.
Should organisations engage in Employee Engagement?
It’s vital that organisations monitor and act upon their employee engagement – more so now than ever. The war for talent is intensifying and businesses can no longer afford to lose their best people. Attracting and retaining the brightest and the best needs to be prioritised, and high employee engagement plays a huge part in accomplishing this.
Research by Gallup found that highly engaged teams are 21% more productive, 22% more profitable, and exhibit significantly lower employee turnover.
Employee engagement is everyone’s job. It takes collaboration from the bottom to the top to make a workplace work for everybody. However, with the right tools, HR has the power to fully democratise the engagement progress – ensuring that everyone has a voice, and is heard.