Employee engagement: the psychology behind individual behaviour - Business Works
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Employee engagement: the psychology behind individual behaviour

As the concept of engagement is still emerging, the first challenge is identifying what employee engagement looks like says John Sylvester, Director at P&MM. Then the question is, how do you foster and maintain an engaged workforce in your organisation? Here is a practical guide to creating the right work environment for your employees to thrive.

Businesses cannot drive engagement behaviours without first capturing hearts and minds. Since attitudes and beliefs influence how people behave, starting with 'why' begins the process of connecting people's beliefs to the leader's. It is the foundation upon which other engagement initiatives that influence behaviour can be built.

Engagement is also cultural and may be fostered by addressing the wider culture of the organisation and at the same time highly individual. What works to engage one employee may be less successful with another. An individual engaged employee would be energetic, confident in their abilities and proactive. They will appear absorbed by the task in hand. They will be optimistic and resilient. All these behaviours will demonstrate and predispose to engagement but of course all these behaviours may be affected by the attitudes and actions of colleagues and management. If other workers are indifferent or cynical about the task then the employee may adopt those beliefs.

Taking action

All businesses need employees who are psychologically connected to their work - especially in an economy of service and information industries. The concept of employee engagement is not an easy one - because there are so many individual, organisational and cultural factors to take into account. However studies have shown that employees will be more engaged if they feel they are learning and growing in their role and adding real value to the goals of the organisation. Managers have a critical role to play here. If they can foster employee engagement, the organisation will see concrete improvements to the bottom line arising from improved sales figures or enhanced customer service.

drive and commitment from leadership

The key to engagement is a drive and commitment from the leadership, but also facilitating middle or lower tier management. These managers must be enabled. Allow them time to support employees emotionally and socially and give them the time to carry out performance management properly, supported by recognition, reward and development. To do this effectively the psychology of behaviour should be considered.

A good starting point is to identify and include engagement behaviours in the corporate competency framework. Look at the existing competency framework and identify the behavioural indicators that help to define the organisation's expectations of what engaged employees look like. For example, if 'Maintaining a Customer Focus' is one of the organisation's core competencies, then this will be identified by a number of key behaviours which can be observed.

Once this has been defined in essence, there are four key areas where leadership teams can help boost employee engagement:

  1. Take a close look at your leadership
  2. Review your recruitment strategy
  3. Ensure your staff have the right core skills through training and development
  4. Performance management and continual motivation is essential.

Commit ongoing time and resources to each of these areas, it is a long-term process but one that will have a direct impact on the bottom line. Making this commitment will show that the business (whatever size) is serious about engagement and it demonstrates that engagement is a day-to-day business activity, rather than an annual HR initiative.

There is no doubt that achieving employee engagement pays dividends and makes a quantifiable improvement to the business. Engaged employees perform better in their jobs, resulting in enhanced client satisfaction, greater productivity and ultimately improved financial returns.

For further advice download our whitepaper, Employee Engagement: The Psychology Behind Individual Behaviours. The paper examines each of the key elements identified above in more depth and has been co-authored by Ruth Patel, Workforce Psychologist at Unlocking People Potential.

For further information on P&MM, please visit: staffmotivationmatters.co.uk/about-us

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