Engage. Empower. Energize.

When I worked at the Province of Nova Scotia, I was part of a team that launched the first survey to measure how engaged provincial employees were. The survey measured staff opinions and perceptions in 10 areas: teamwork, communication, employee involvement, quality of work life, leadership, compensation and recognition, personal growth, diversity, safety and security, and recruitment and retention. (You can find out more about this and subsequent surveys here.)

Prior to and during my time at the province, I had often been the go-to person for employee communication programs and had been an advocate of good employee communication practices. This was because none of my PR colleagues thought employee communication was exciting enough. I didn't agree. I thought if organizations were going to say that employees are their most valuable resource, they should show it and I was excited about the possibilities of this work.

The experience with the employee surveys, however, gave me a new way to think about the value of employee communication -- the link between communication and engagement.

Engaged employees are defined as those who are attached and are willing to give extra effort to their organizations.

Willis Towers Watson has studied employee engagement for more than a decade. Its research shows a link between engaged employees, performance and bottom-line results. 

WTW reports that: "In a three-year study of 41 global companies, we found that operating margins improved nearly four per cent on average in organizations with high employee engagement levels and declined about two per cent in those with low engagement levels."

So, engagement is important but is it enough? 

I have seen high-achieving, engaged employees become frustrated and disengaged due to what they see as unfairness in annual appraisals, lack of input into work and workloads, and disconnects between stated organizational values and those seen in play, among other factors.

While I have my own views about what employers should do to prevent great employees from disconnecting, I was pleased to discover WTW's The Power of Three report that deals with this issue.

In a nutshell, engagement isn't going to last in a vacuum. To be sustainable, the workplace has to support productivity and employee well-being. 

The Willis Towers Watson model of sustainable engagement 
from The Power of Three, 2016.
From the report:

"Many factors can lead to employee frustration, including inadequate enablement or empowerment, de-motivating work pressures and a recognition-deficient work environment.

"Employers must provide, at a minimum, well-functioning equipment, the necessary supplies, effective work processes and clear direction from supervisors. All of these contribute in a very direct way to employees’ ability to get the job done."

"But providing this type of support isn't enough. As organizations try to do more with less, employees can feel the stress from mounting workloads and tightening deadlines. 

"To perform at their best, employees need healthful environments that help sustain high energy levels. For example, clear priorities, effective teams, respectful colleagues, and a balance between performance expectations and job pressures all contribute to employees’ sense of well-being on the job. In turn, positive well-being generates energy and supports sustained effort."

An employee survey at one company identified the key drivers of sustainable
engagement to be empowerment, teamwork and cooperation, and leadership.
Everyone across an organization can play a role in achieving sustainable engagement. Supervisors create good environments for teamwork; managers provide opportunities for employees to contribute to decisions; executives create appropriate recognition systems; and all levels demonstrate the importance of employee well-being.

Communication articulates and lifts the veil on workplace culture -- for better or worse. 

In creating your sustainably engaged workforce, don't forget to set up a sustainable communication program to help get you to where you want to be.

As I often say, when your communication efforts fail, your other efforts often do as well. 

How would you describe communication in your organization? Does it support or hinder engagement?


Here's where you can read the WTW report.



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