Employee engagement

Employee engagement is a critical issue for health sector managers, writes Conor Hannaway.

A colleague of mine many years ago used to say that the best way to guarantee success with a book, was to take a popular theme and to precede it with the word ‘beyond’.  With one word, you position yourself ahead of the competition and leave them ‘so last year’.  Google ‘Beyond Customer Satisfaction’ and you get a sense of how this process works.

I was reminded of my colleague’s advice when doing research into employee engagement. I came across the model developed by the well known management consultancy, Towers Watson.  In the article describing their model, there is a section which is headed: “Why engagement is not enough”.  The article, The Power of Three, defines engagement as “Attachment to the company and willingness to give extra effort”.  They add two further dimensions to the mix: Enabled and Energised. The former refers to a work environment which supports productivity and performance.  The latter focuses on the individual’s physical, social and emotional well being at work. It is probably fair to say that most experts in the area would have included elements of the latter two dimensions within an ordinary definition of engagement.

Conor Hannaway
Conor Hannaway

Employee engagement is a critical issue for health sector managers.  The pace of changes affecting work and careers, reductions in earnings and a general negative to hostile public commentary of the performance of health services has sapped the morale of managers and staff throughout the service.  These are the very people expected to do more with less, increase productivity and meet exacting standards of care. Unless employee engagement issues are addressed, then the goals of the reform programme will not be achieved.

Gallup, the polling experts, believe that they have identified 12 components  which address areas which have a significant relationship to productivity, staff turnover, profit and customer satisfaction if focused on regularly.  Some people are concerned by the pop nature of the elements  such as: “I have a best friend at work” but Gallup believe that they have research to back up their approach.

The HMI can draw on over 20 years experience in conducting organisation surveys in both the public and private sectors.  It utilises a much wider bank of questions and tailors the survey methodology to meet the context in which the client organisation functions.  The availability of on-line survey tools means that a survey can be put in place rapidly giving an in-depth diagnosis of an organisation speedily and cost effectively.

Unless employee engagement issues are addressed, then the goals of the reform programme will not be achieved.

The available HMI surveys can cover a range of factors affecting the work experience of staff under headings such as: your work; your colleagues; your managers; people management policies and practices; communications; and the organisation.  Surveys typically consist of between 30 and 60 questions.

The ability to tailor a survey is critical.  For instance, in knowledge organisations, many managers are adopting a three factor model of engagement arising from recent research in the United States.  The factors in that model – Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy – are easily reflected in an engagement survey.

Despite the emergence of new models, responses to surveys have followed a consistent pattern over the past twenty years.  Usually people express greatest satisfaction about their own work and their work unit.  Consistently, they are unhappy about the lack of recognition they receive and the failure of their organisation to address poor performance.  Clearly, staff not only want to be engaged themselves, they want their colleagues, managers and top management to be engaged as well.