Employee Engagement & Organizational Performance

Employee Engagement & Organizational Performance

Six fundamental elements are believed to increase employee motivation.

Introduction

 Research verified that organizations with high levels of employee engagement garner greater productivity, operational efficiency, higher quality products or services and low employee turnover. This results in customer satisfaction and loyalty leading to greater profitability. Some research studies have found a significant positive correlation between employee engagement and safety performance. Six fundamental elements that drive employee engagement are:

1. Work

2. Organizational system and practices

3. People (executives, managers, supervisors, peers, and others)

4. Opportunities

5. Rewards

6. Quality of life

Of the six fundamental elements of engagement, the people element is probably the most important.

These studies compared traditional management methods with high-involvement work practices in automotive, steel, electronic, apparel manufacturing and service organizations. In all cases, workers in the high-involvement plants or operations showed higher levels of positive attitudes, morale, trust, cooperation and significantly higher labor productivity, including: organizational commitment and intrinsic enjoyment of the work. Invariably, those organizations showed superior operational and financial performance, as well.

One study found that engaged employees were five times less likely than non-engaged employees to have a safety-related incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time incident. In addition, the average cost of a safety incident was six times lower for engaged employees compared to non-engaged ones. Upon examining the six fundamental elements that drive employee engagement, it is easy to see how these can be incorporated into the safety management processes to garner their intrinsic benefits.

Focus on Safety

When the safety practitioner suggests that the work, if done differently, will be safer for the worker, it may actually take longer, require more effort or be more difficult to perform. This is because the habitual way of doing things is done automatically and the suggested way requires conscious thought and effort. To minimize this, the task in which the employee is going to engage may be able to be designed in such a way that the task provides positive reinforcement by way of making the task easier to perform or requiring less effort.

Involving the worker in the task design, planning of the work or assessing the risk involved will also increase involvement. The way the task is assigned (presented to the worker) can make the work meaningful or not. Another aspect of work that doesn't get sufficient attention is task assignment, where the worker's capabilities might not match up with the task’s demand. The worker can be given an achievable goal before starting the task, and the successful completion of the task will give the employee a sense of accomplishment. These are just a few suggested techniques that will increase engagement.

In many instances, unreasonable production goals place workers in a position where they have to choose between working safely or cutting corners in order to complete the work. The organizational and operational systems should be integrated to not create conflicting demands on the worker. Integration of safety into the operational planning process is a very simple and effective form of amalgamation, and the involvement of workers at some point in the process may foster engagement as well as have a positive effect of safety. Each organization should be able to map its operational processes and find operational indicators that will provide salient information related to safety so that it can be effectively managed.

Another traditional safety shortcoming is the fact that the metrics used are historical and do not provide operational "just-in-time" information with which to manage risk. The organizational values must be in line with management's behavior so as to garner trust and improve the governing practices through integration and alignment. So, management actions play a significant role in the level of worker engagement. Management's leadership skills and style play a critical role in fostering respectful relationships, building trust, opening two-way communication and creating an empowering work climate.

Management creates the work climate, devises the organizational and operational systems, sanctions the practice, rewards compliance, manages performance, etc. They must be willing to actively listen, manage by walking around, go out of their way to treat everyone fairly and involve workers as much as possible in problem solving as well as decision-making. Employees must be treated with respect. Safety-related interactions must preserve personal respect, even in disciplinary situations. Employee perceptions about organizational commitment to safety are often based on their interactions with operational personnel who are supported by safety staff.

When there is a disconnect between operational requirements and safety prognostications, employees may feel that management does not care about their well-being and may view safety practitioners as safety cops who simply implement and enforce management initiatives and are not truly there to look out for the welfare of the employees. Where employees are engaged, they believe that management is truly concerned about their well-being and tend to respond in ways that benefit the organization.

Conclusion

Employee engagement can have a powerful impact on the organization by improving many of their business functions, including safety performance. The degree of employee engagement is directly related to addressing the six fundamental elements mentioned above and the level of involvement that employees are given in managing their work processes and practices. Some of the ways that employees can become involved in addressing the safety of their work may include participating in production goal assessment, having input into planning the work, assessing the risk, evaluating the procedures, suggesting possible practice methods, addressing logistics, selecting risk mitigation techniques, etc.

Of course, this will require that the workforce be capable, skillful, knowledgeable and motivated. They will also have to have an enlightened management, culture and climate that foster and support engagement, integrated and aligned organizational and operational systems. There has to be robust and open communication, fair treatment and feedback as well as opportunity for growth and development. The degree to which these aspects are implemented and function seamlessly will determine the level of engagement and the outcomes that drive the organization's success.

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