Employee engagement: performing beyond the tip of the iceberg

David Callaghan, Chief Executive Officer 


Employers who are keyed into the latest studies and trends search for the elusive element that wins their employees’ loyalty and determines that star quality that makes the real difference. They understand that the foundation of good customer experience has long been identified as “engaged employees”.

Some employers turn the job over to their HR department, as a project running in the background – not unlike the numerous technological systems set up to increase efficiency and productivity. They may implement systems and annual surveys, and engagement may be an item on the agenda during quarterly reviews. This approach is the key to the matter, or rather, why it is only the beginning of the answer.

Technology has impacted the way people communicate and increased interactions but, ironically, has chipped away the fundamental human need for connection. Our evolution is lagging behind our smart devices and office systems.

Like it or not, biology dictates employee needs and behaviour – people have emotional reactions that contribute to their decisions and actions, whether they are conscious of this in the moment or not. Decades of defining “professional” behaviour has also contributed to the cultural norm of ignoring emotions at work, although they form the basis of employee engagement. After all, the definition of engagement includes a desire to improve, a belief in an organisation, team spirit, respect and a willingness to go the extra mile, which are rooted in feeling good at work.

Furthermore, technology remains firmly behind humans in building relationships. Trust, motivation, and inspiration – these elements come from meaningful interactions where the time and commitment of leaders are invested in their team. Annual surveys cannot power changes as quickly as real-time feedback and chats. People spend 40 per cent of their day at work, a significant amount of time in which to repeatedly experience negative feelings. Studies have consistently shown that a bad relationship with the manager leads to employees seeking a new position elsewhere.

Good relationships encompass good communication, recognition and acknowledgement. While a good employer aligns the team to the organisational vision and targets, a great one ensures that the employees’ voices are heard, their achievements are rewarded and their wellbeing is paramount. A high response from employees of 91 per cent with high wellbeing said they intended to stay with their current employer, as opposed to just 55 per cent of those with low wellbeing, according to a Limeade & Quantum Workplace report on employee engagement. The first priority in a wellbeing strategy, according to 37 per cent of specialists in wellbeing, HR and employee benefits, was to improve employee engagement; the next largest group, 26 per cent, saw concentrating on organisational culture as the priority (REBA/Punter Southall Health & Protection 2017).

This loop of engagement and wellbeing is unsurprising. Employers who successfully put the key elements in place realise the difference when employees have emotional commitment and improved wellbeing. Engaged employees ensure their daily work and achievements are interconnected with the organisation’s mission. They sincerely care about the company and contribute to achieving its goals.


To learn more about how employee engagement transforms businesses, click here.