Employee Engagement

Part Two – The “Me” in Engagement: The importance for practitioners to balance individual and organisational needs for achieving organisational performance

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In Part One of this blog we discussed that new research, based on a survey of over 30,000 New Zealand working adults, confirms engaging employees is not enough. High performing organisations have engaged employees, but also organisational practises, systems, and products/services that give these organisations position and commercial advantage in the competitive markets they operate in. What do organisations need to do to improve not just employee engagement, but also their position and competitive advantage in the market? How can HR have a role in both?

Improving Employee Engagement

Our research showed that engagement is largely driven by meeting individual employee needs (practices oriented towards individual employee goals and desires), such as creating an enjoyable place to work, providing meaningful work, feeling valued, and feeling a sense of belonging to the organisation. Belief in the organisation’s mission was also a key engagement driver. Organisations that can meet these needs will motivate employees to work harder and stay longer with their organisation.

Improving Organisational Performance

Our research showed that organisational performance is largely driven by meeting organisational needs (practices oriented towards organisational goals). Organisations are more successful if they are making the changes they need to be competitive in future, have a clear vision and strategy, deliver on the promises made to customers, have effective senior leadership, and have high performance standards.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Distribution of type of drivers (individual need or organisational need) for engagement and organisational performance.

HR’s Role in Driving Engagement and Organisational Performance

For a long time, HR professionals have understood their role in measuring and improving employee engagement. However, HR has long desired to have a more impactful, strategic role within an organisation and get a “seat at the table.” This research suggests HR has ample opportunity to contribute to the strategic direction of an organisation by ensuring they facilitate the gathering of employee feedback on organisational needs – not just individual needs. HR should gather detailed feedback from employees on areas such as whether customer needs are being met, whether the organisation is changing quickly enough, whether the organisation is delivering on its strategy and vision, and leadership decisions. This feedback can be used directly by senior leaders to improve decision making that will impact an organisation’s strategic direction and performance. Our research shows that if resources are limited (e.g., you can only gather feedback on limited topics) and the goal is to improve organisational performance, prioritising feedback about organisational needs will likely reap more benefits than prioritising feedback about individual needs, such as job satisfaction or recognition.

This research was presented at the Australian Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference on Friday, July 14, 2017.


Senior Consultant, IBM Talent Management Solutions

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