Employee engagement isn’t just another tick in the HR box

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Yes, you heard this right – It’s a Business Strategy and not just HR strategy.

Employee engagement cannot be accredited to some random best-workplace ranking somewhere or massaging a rung in Maslow’s employee motivation hierarchy. Engaging employees has moved beyond these asterisks. It is now about the big, bold fonts – Revenues, EPS growth, Profitability, Competitiveness, Market share, Cost chops, Attrition arrest, Productivity and Talent edge.

As hard as it may appear to absorb, employee engagement is definitely showing its conspicuous impact on the CEO’s table, affecting bottom-line and top line like never before.

A quick glance at some numbers tossed by Research major Gallup this April (2015) corroborates these trends. It found that four human capital strategies are gelling up in a powerful way to add up to 59% more growth in revenue per employee. Companies with engaged employees, tend to outperform those without by as much as 202%, as Dale Carnegie found out too.

Why this craze for employee engagement?

When you add to that the sudden influx of digital age, millennials, workforce diversity, application-economy waves – you know that you just can’t afford to have a disengaged employee in today’s fast-changing times.

Every company will have its own definition of what employee engagement is. Some may term it as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and some would measure it based on the way an engaged employee cares about the work and the company. When an employee is happy, fuelled, and engaged it automatically converts into attributes like innovation, involvement in keeping customers happy, and their organizations outstanding. Such employees bring in a sense of achievement and creativity, pride and enthusiasm – and all this obviously takes the shape of an ace company in no time.

An engaged employee, unlike a disengaged one will never treat a co-worker or customer poorly or speak low about the company to friends and family. Not to forget all those costs that pile up with disengaged ones – like attrition, retention, absteenism and low productivity. Can the opposite of all these be possible? Not a one-trick pony.

Engagement is simple and yet not so easy to stir up

Engagement transpires outwardly and inwardly as you would spot easily if you take a closer sniff at any of the ‘best workplaces’. There would be organizations where you can see the cool quotient in the garb of slides, beer taps, pizza tables, Salsa classes, sleeping pods, colorful walls, foosball tables, carom corners, and what not.

There would be equally-cool organizations where intangibles like open-ness and ease of approaching a superior, ability to work flexibly, balance for personal and professional life, room for actualization and self-challenge and having fun at work would stack up for the same goal – a happy and engaged employee.

One good example of both dimensions can be seen at Ramco though. Here, there is something called Fika, a spot where every employees can corral now and then to create music (yes think of a guitar, a trumpet or bongos and you will find such stuff here), to watch television, to have random discussions and even have internal meetings and meet with clients. But what catches your eye strongly is when you see Ramco’s 55-year-old CEO brewing the coffee himself for his staff. In fact, new rituals mandate that the managers need to compulsorily serve coffee for one hour every week to enable employees interact with the top management. There is actually a calendar to chart each manager’s turn to do so!

When Virender Aggarwal, CEO of Ramco Systems introduced such radical concepts, he was certain that he wanted to tear down office cubicles, literally as well as metaphorically. The idea was to inject an open culture as fiercely and seamlessly as possible and spur the company’s drive of innovation at the workplace.

Does it pay? Well, a look at Ramco’s rating in Glassdoor (a place where employees can rate their companies) throws up numbers that tell how Ramco’s score went to 3.8 from 2.6 (By the way- Google is rated at 4 and the score was also higher than top companies like TCS, Infosys and Wipro)

Stop Bilking, Start ‘Silk’ing

Engagement looks beautiful and delicate but just like a silk thread it can tie in loyalty and business outcomes in far long-term and stronger ways than a rough rope ever would.

Yet only a few organizations spare the time to stop milking their cows and see if they are actually happy and well-fed with food beyond coarse grass. The reality is dismal - only about 25% of business leaders were seen to have an employee engagement strategy from what Dale Carnegie reckoned in 2014. Another tracking from Gallup in June 2015 showed a tiny 13% of workers worldwide to be engaged in their jobs.

What about the remaining 87%? Are those not-engaged or indifferent or actively disengaged and potentially hostile folks housed in your organizations?

Scary thought, yeah?