Should employee engagement only focus on retaining employees?

The success of employee engagement activities should be gauged by their impact on productivity.

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Engaged employees are definitely happier, not just at the workplace but also at home. How many times have we heard this? Employee engagement has become very important to organisations today. Companies across the world have become aware of and are opening up to employee engagement tools. But what exactly is the goal?

Employee engagement is described as the extent to which employees are passionate about their work, are committed to the organisation, and put in extra effort into their work. So, when companies become serious about employee engagement, is it only because they wish to retain their employees?

Retention depends on a lot of factors, and tools and platforms such as Vantage Circle only contribute in some way. If the employees lack the basic building blocks, such as fair compensation, security, career progression, and so on, even the best of engagement activities will fail to retain them.

Vantage Circle helps companies attract and engage their employees with an employee engagement and benefits platform that brings everything together in one place.

Despite fair compensation, if there is a change in the industry landscape and other companies offer unrealistic salaries because of the increase in demand, employees will still leave. It is not always true that retention can be improved by improving the non-mandatory engagement and benefits initiatives. Then what exactly is the point of engagement initiatives if employees cannot be retained, you may wonder.

The first step is to understand that the goal of employee engagement is not and should not be retention. The success of employee-engagement activities should be gauged by their impact on productivity. Retention should just be the byproduct.

The aim should be to ensure that as long as employees are in the company, they should feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. They will leave at some point or other, because of various reasons beyond the organisation’s control — salary hike, personal family obligations, and so on— but as long as they are in the company, they should feel highly engaged and be willing to put their heart and soul into the work.

What kind of engagement activities are important?

Here is a broad overview of features based on which employee-enagagement activities can be analysed.

Visibility vs impact
Some activities are highly visible, but may not really be useful. For instance, many organisations create work floor dance videos. If posted on social media, such videos will score in terms of visibility too. The activity itself may be highly entertaining, but does it really impact the morale and productivity? Can such an activity be scaled across locations? While focusing on visibility, impact should not be forgotten. The right impact is something that has to be ensured.
Criticality vs coverage
While employee engagement and benefits are offered so as to impact the maximum number of employees, some initiatives are needed simply because they are critical, even though they may affect only a small number of people. Childcare, for instance, may impact less than 10 per cent of the employees an organisation, but if it is not offered, it takes a very high toll on these 10 per cent. It is similar to insurance. Few people may claim it, but it is critical for everyone to be covered. Just because actual claims will be made by only a handful of people, insurance cover cannot be ignored.
Implementation vs result
Many companies organise wellness activities, but they are very ad hoc in nature and done to simply tick a box in the yearly plan. Rarely does anybody follow up to find out what the outcome of the activities was. Nobody tries to study whether the wellness activity has actually improved employee wellness. Sometimes companies measure the wrong metrics, for instance, the number of registrations that happened, the number of people who turned up for the event, and so on. But the elephant in the room is the actual number of people who actually improved their health or made some progress in the right direction. Rarely is anybody sure of the result. An activity need not be blindly indulged in just because it is a fad. Its outcome has to be measured.

If the employees are engaged, the customers or clients will also be engaged. Employees need to be convinced about the organisation’s commitment to engagement and employee well-being. To get a hand on the pulse of the staff, the organsiations should create a safe environment where they feel free to present their ideas, express their views honestly and anonymously.

There are plenty of ways out there to measure employee engagement and benefits. What is important is to be focussed on measuring the right goals and following up on the outcomes/results. All this may require time and effort, but will improve the companies’ performance in the long run.

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