Engagement simultaneously benefits organisations and individuals. It impacts an employee’s effort in organisational settings and so improves productivity and also helps them to enjoy, and be stimulated by, their work. (Kahn, 1990).
Difficult to define
Engagement often means different things to different people, making it difficult for organisations to provide a clear definition, leaving many with a soft and fluffy interpretation.
In organisational settings meaning is vital, as it can drive the direction of key initiatives. Focus on the wrong thing and you will not impact business results or productivity, worse still you might even create a negative impact. It is all too easy for engagement efforts to go wrong, as research shows that engagement can be passive, resulting in a contented workforce that sees no need to add discretionary effort. Additionally, engagement is often transient and prone to fluctuation, here today (at the time of a staff survey for instance), but gone tomorrow (if the boss shouts at the staff).
Organisations need a clear definition to ensure engagement is consistent and produces active participation from employees. In this article, we offer a fresh business-focused approach to employee engagement based on the current research. This approach enables organisations to set a clear definition of engagement and implement the best initiatives that deliver desired results. We also outline a process that will enable you to identify what can drive engagement and make employees more productive.
A business-focused definition of engagement
Research by OSC, led by Professor William Scott Jackson, provides a defined model of engagement that enables organisations to improve their efforts in order to achieve increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and improved retention of staff. Not only does his research identify the casual factors involved in individual motivation, it also explains how engagement results in an Active, Committed, and Enthusiastic workforce (ACE). This is better for business because organisations will be able to utilise the evidence based model in any engagement attempts and because an ACE workforce can improve both an organisation’s performance and improve wellbeing in the workplace
Targeting effective forms of engagement
In ‘Transforming Engagement, Happiness and Wellbeing’ (2018), OCS Chairman, Professor William Scott Jackson and co-author Andrew Mayo also make the link between engagement, productivity, and ACE employees. They explain how the right culture and values can ensure ACE is achieved and how engagement can foster an ACE workforce, create an ACE organisation, and increase productivity.
Organisations that value autonomy and give employees a sense of freedom can encourage responsibility, self-sufficiency, extra voluntary effort, and create a more reliable, productive, and innovative workforce. Furthermore, prioritising engagement and cultivating an ACE workforce should save resource and increase efficiency as less intervention from management is required.
Combined factors that impact ACE
A range of combined factors can lead to ACE individuals that benefit the workforce.
Employee engagement in work impacts performance and task completion. An employee’s engagement on an organisational level will impact performance, ability to achieve, and the organisation’s ability to deliver in line with their mission. The social environment is a source of engagement, which sets the culture, impacts colleague interaction and working relations, as well as individual wellbeing. Therefore, organisations will benefit from engaging employees across a range of areas to create an ACE workforce.
Sources that increase levels of engagement
Organisational factors and management style can increase levels of engagement in the work place.
The view that engagement is an essential part of an organisational process and the need for evidence based practice has encouraged its measurement. Organisations need to ensure that theory translates to results in real life and measurement will prove that efforts are fruitful. Not only is measurement essential to determine the effectiveness of engagement strategy, it also enables organisations to manage resource effectively and focus efforts where they are needed most.
Therefore, organisations should prioritise engagement initiatives and measurement to create an ACE workforce, increase productivity, improve feedback mechanisms and innovation opportunities, as well as foster improved citizenship and sustained levels of satisfaction.
At Oxford Strategic Consulting we believe real progress can only be made through active committed enthusiasm (ACE). To ensure the positive outcomes of ACE are achieved, processes that increase levels of engagement must be developed and implemented across organisations. By using a process for active committed enthusiasm (PACE) organisations will not only improve workforce performance, productivity, standards of service and value for money, they should also enhance the wellbeing of individual workers.
With these benefits in mind we will explore PACE initiatives in upcoming articles and outline how organisations can engage the workforce through practical measures. We will also highlight problems with the measurement of ACE, explain how research is helping to create new measurement techniques, provide an impact analysis of PACE, and provide OSC’s perspective on how research can be used to create new implementation tools.