EVEN those who are familiar with the term Employee Engagement consider the topic to be a bit ‘fluffy’. Some businesses even consider this area to be a bit below them. So, let’s dispel some of the myths about ‘Employee Engagement’ and dispense with the notion it’s about giant games of Jenga and funky office beanbags.

Getting this area right can benefit your business in many ways, yet very few do it well.

Alarmingly, according to Gallup only around 11% of employees in the UK feel they are actively engaged in the workplace.

While there is no definite proven correlation, it’s striking that UK productivity has also been struggling at the same time. And yet with Brexit and all its consequences looming employee engagement has never been more important as many workers begin to experience the chill of uncertainty.

Perhaps you could think about engagement like three phases in a relationship: the ‘courting phase’; the ‘been married a while’ phase and the ‘needs to get a divorce’ phase.

The ‘courting phase’ – where employees are actively engaged –  they are motivated, enthusiastic and pulling in the same direction as the business owners. These people want to make a difference.

In the ‘been married a while phase’ you see disengaged employees. These employees turn up; do what’s expected of them and go home. Disengaged employees are passengers in a business; happy to sit looking out of the window but never contributing towards growth.

The ‘needs to get a divorce’ phase is where the relationship is failing and in a state of some disrepair. Not only do these employees not want to be in the business; often they are actively disengaged, trying to derail it.

The impact on business of low employee engagement is significant. From a payroll perspective, it’s estimated that for highly disengaged employees 34% of salary is wasted. Companies with disengaged employees also spend precious management time dealing with staff issues.

We can all identify with that ‘Sunday night’ feeling; that ‘oh no its work tomorrow’ bleakness. With disengaged employees this feeling of dread seeps into their free time, souring their mood and often negatively impacting their family relationships. Feelings of anxiety, stress, anger start to fester and once this flywheel starts to turn its hard to slow it down.

Much can be done to address this, but it requires a consistent and planned approach, executed over time. It’s not something that can be addressed in the course of a cuddly one-day workshop.

The change must start at the top, it needs to be visible within organisation’s management and leadership structure. Senior teams need to understand the many levers which contribute towards Employee Engagement and crucially, which are most pertinent to their business.

As with everything else in a fast-paced environment time can be the biggest factor in bringing effective change in this area as it will require specific and specialist focus.

Many businesses simply don’t know what to do. They might have eloquent Vision, Mission and Culture statements and these might even be picked out in lights on the walls of their office: tick; job done. Well, think again. If you want these values lived and breathed in your organisation you need to do more than sticking up posters. Engagement is a real, live thing. It’s something palpable in those organisations which do it well. In these places you can almost reach out and touch it.

No matter how our new COVID workplace evolves, companies which improve Employee Engagement quickly and on a broad scale will be far better placed to meet its challenges.