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There's a lot of noise about employee engagement but not a great deal of clarity, argues Jo Harley. How can we simplify our strategies and ensure they are effective?
Employee engagement has become a subject of debate, confusion and derision. It’s ambiguous; over-complicated; siloed. But if it is consistently executed in the right way and combined with enablement and empowerment, it’s a sure-fire way to achieve competitive advantage and business success.
The term itself features almost daily in the mainstream HR rhetoric, yet business leaders see it as vague, confusing and misunderstood, according to the respondents in our Engage, Enable Empower survey. This confusion is the roadblock to engagement being successful, leading to increased motivation, productivity and, in turn, growth.
Our research comprised a qualitative study of 12 interviews with academics, board directors and CEOs, a quantitative study comprising an online questionnaire completed by 220 respondents and a focus group of 10 business and entrepreneurship students at Hult International Business School, representing the leaders of the future. In 69% of the organisations studied, the HR director held a board-level position.
When asked what employee engagement meant to them, respondents were in complete disagreement – the quantitative survey alone threw up 13 different definitions.
Of the total sample, 17% of respondents supported the statement "engagement is about employees being empowered and enabled to thrive", 15% supported the statement "if employees are engaged, so too will customers be" but 12% of respondents think engagement is merely about employees enjoying coming to work.
Interestingly, just 2% think engagement is "fluffy" HR speak