By James Malia, managing director, P&MM Employee Benefits

Employers must take a broader view of employee engagement if they are to succeed in having a truly engaged workforce that performs to the best of its ability and has a real impact on bottom line results.

Aided by the plethora of survey tools on the market, employee engagement is too often approached as an annual tick-box exercise with limited HR-focused questions, asking employees if they enjoy their work and are proud to work for their employer. There is an assumption that offering a competitive benefits package or a reward and recognition scheme will engage employees and get them on-side. However, engagement is much more than simply achieving a good take-up of the benefits available, or high levels of participation in a reward programme. There is an increasing recognition at senior management levels that true engagement is multi-faceted and cannot be accomplished with one-off initiatives or perks viewed in isolation from other factors that affect employees’ attitudes in the workplace.

The whole area needs to be looked at much more broadly. A truly engaged workforce is happy, understands the value of the business, is an ambassador for it, makes the most of the benefits and reward schemes on offer and wants to grow with it. Yes, it is important to offer a competitive remuneration and benefits package that matches the best in the market, and indeed this is now expected by employees, but more than that it is vital to ensure the employee engages not only with the package on offer, but with the business as a whole and that they are engaged for a specific purpose. Linking engagement to business outcomes is vital.

It is important to recognise that a one size approach to engagement does not fit all as there can be different drivers of engagement in different parts of a business. Many of the surveys available take the view that engagement is to do with the employer brand, however, in many cases, commitment to a line manager is stronger than commitment to the organisation. Additionally, employees can become disengaged if they are not given opportunities to develop their skills, or have their say in areas that matter to them, or if they feel they are not receiving any support, or if a reward scheme is perceived to be unfair. It is also worth noting that potentially only those employees who are highly engaged, or even highly disengaged, will often answer these surveys. If an employee is somewhere in the middle, then it really depends on their mood and their workload when they receive it as to whether they answer it or not.

Taking a more in-depth look at the work environment and how it impacts on employees is crucial in deciding which steps to take to increase levels of engagement. HR teams need to be able to connect easily and frequently with staff across a broad range of areas from training and reward to benefits and health and wellbeing. This will enable them to share news about the business and its purpose, communicate how individual employees fit into it and involve staff in decisions that affect them. If they do, they are certain to generate greater levels of engagement.