Written by Anoop Tiwari, Senior Corporate Vice President, Digital Process Operations at HCL Technologies

Employee engagement is one of the hardest metrics to quantify, especially when it comes to its impact on the bottom line of any business. In the UK, research estimates that half of the UK workforce is either disengaged about their job or company, costing between £52-£70 billion per year in productivity. This is a large potential loss, but organisations are struggling to find ways to boost workplace engagement and prevent it from happening. This is a persistent challenge for modern enterprises, becoming even more critical as we navigate the current period of uncertainty and disruption.

Employee Engagement and Corporate Culture

At its core, employee engagement is a reflection of corporate culture. Done correctly, it turns workers into acolytes, and leaders into evangelists. It instills passion for the work and commitment towards the organisation. It fosters exceptional performance, encourages self-starters, enhances customer engagement and ensures business resilience. In effect, high employee engagement and overall workplace engagement can drive immeasurable productivity and innovation, leading to the business’ broader success.

Businesses know it is important: Harvard Business Review reported that 71% of leaders believed employee engagement to be “very important” to their organisational success, while 72% identified performance recognition as a chief driver of employee engagement. And while enterprises spend over £722 billion annually to improve engagement, only 13% of employees are actually engaged. Clearly, something needs to change.

The Three Pillars of Engagement

For any business, it is imperative to understand the need for synergy between employee engagement and company culture, creating the environment necessary for effective employee engagement. Unfortunately, many find it challenging to adequately deploy, sustain, and measure these initiatives. Achieving this goal requires a 360-degree framework that addresses the three pillars of engagement: professional, intellectual, and social.

1.      Professional Engagement

Professional engagement is the first pillar of employee engagement. It is aimed at empowering employees by investing in a continuous learning and development (L&D) program. Businesses that prioritise L&D can reap the benefits both in terms of driving higher professional engagement as well as business growth. Further research indicated that 60% of employees felt that L&D opportunities helped them feel more engaged in their jobs and made them feel more likely to stay. It’s no surprise then that these initiatives act as a key driver of employee engagement.

Investing in employee L&D not only improves job performance but also opens up new growth opportunities for workers as they learn to bring more value to the organisation. These programmes are also instrumental of how the enterprise values its employee and impacts loyalty and employee retention as well.

Professional engagement also plays a key role in fostering in-house leadership. It creates an invaluable company culture while also protecting institutional memory knowledge that is crucial for the future. Organisations that provide experiences with a learning-centric approach, built on customised learning personas and technology tools, are better suited for disruptive times. This is especially true today, as we shift to an increasingly large-scale, distributed workforce environment, which needs advanced remote learning experiences to improve future outcomes.

2.      Intellectual Engagement

Intellectual engagement is another key area for organisational focus. It involves a framework where the capabilities of employees, and their ongoing skill development, is pushed further in rewarding ways. This takes on the form of employee initiatives such as “innovation drives” and “hackathons”. For instance, the invention of Facebook’s “Like” button was the result of an internal hackathon.

Intellectual engagements provide a much needed respite from business-as-usual, and engage employees in new and interesting ways. They create opportunities for teams to work together and solve real-world problems while also igniting their entrepreneurial potential. Internal hackathons serve as a great way to entice employees with experience rewards that help them further leapfrog their careers in a proactive manner. As a result, businesses can discover a myriad of mutual benefits for employees as well as organisations.

3.      Social Engagement

The final pillar of employee engagement is social engagement, which is aimed at offering employees a break from the stress, monotony, and routine of normal work. It includes leisure activities, which allow team members to relax, and has been shown to promote team cohesion, coordination, and empathy. Such events include activities like office parties, team meals, competitive games and appreciation events. During the pandemic, social engagement has taken on a whole new level of importance, with millions working from home. Workplace engagement is instrumental to building an inclusive culture, driven by social bonds.

This has led to an increase in company-organised activities that promote intermingling outside the pressures of work. Such initiatives have shown to enhance employee happiness which can result in up to 12% more productivity, up to 20% greater performance, and a rise of up to 37% in sales. According to a survey, recognising employees in meaningful ways can positively impact engagement for nearly 90% of the workforce. As company-wide game-a-thons and watch parties become more common, it’s important to recognise that they not only serve to boost morale and increase motivation but are a valuable opportunity for organisations to express their appreciation for their employees’ efforts.

360 Degrees of Engagement

These three pillars form the complete 360-degree employee engagement experience, revolutionising how enterprises and workers collaborate on mutual outcomes. These programmes have multifaceted benefits for all parties, and are especially critical during periods of volatility and disruption.

The current pandemic has radically changed how we work and interact. In this new remote working paradigm, organisations continue to face substantial challenges. This includes reduced levels of engagement and enthusiasm, a decline in training, reduction in collaboration, waning motivation, and a rise in mental health conditions among the workforce.

Today, it is more important than ever for businesses to routinely engage with their workers; investing in every opportunity to ensure the workforce remains the best ambassador of the enterprise’s brand and values. So, as we look over the horizon to the future and try to discern a clear picture of the “new normal”, one thing remains certain– we must retain and nurture our most valuable asset– our employees.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.