Bridging the employee engagement gap


There is an engagement gap
Almost three-quarters (71%) of business leaders surveyed by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services for the report The impact of employee engagement on performance, published in September 2013, said that employee engagement was critical to their long-term success. But only 24% of the same people described their workforce as highly engaged. Gallup has been measuring employee engagement for nearly two decades and it is rising at less than one percentage point per year. At this rate, it will take almost 50 years to bridge the gap between what executives say they need and what is happening in their organisations.

There is not that long
Technology is driving unparalleled business change. Markets are being disrupted all around the world with no sector safe. Business is moving faster with every month that goes by and when business moves faster, competition gets harder. Opportunities open up for new players with small, highly engaged teams and they outmanoeuvre and outperform larger, slower established organisations.

With change happening so fast, we need, organisations need their people on their side, to be highly engaged, innovating and making sure they do not become the next Nokia, Polaroid, Blockbuster or Borders.

And if that is not enough, the customer relationship is changing. Customers have more power than ever before and they are using it.

The number of customer reviews has grown exponentially in the last 10 years and they are now embedded into search results and product feeds. For many businesses, customer reviews are read before their own websites and product descriptions. Unhappy customers used to tell 10 people, now they can tell 10,000 people.

Businesses need customers to love their brands, love their products and love their services. But how can they get customers to love them if their employees do not even like them? Surely customer love must start with employee love?

There is something that can be done about this
In fact, there is a group of businesses that has been quietly doing something about this for the last 20 years. These businesses have changed how they treat their people and, as a result, they have super-engaged workforces. They do not run easy places to work, they run great places to work. They are in all sectors from technology to retail, to manufacturing to hospitality. They enjoy stock market returns of twice their peers, they innovate more than their competitors and they have half their employee turnover.

After studying these organisations for over a decade, we have built a deep understanding of how organisations can move their business towards a highly engaged culture and have developed it into a model, The Employee Engagement Bridge.

There are 10 parts of The Bridge model, all of which are important. How important each one is, and when and how organisations decide to work on each depends entirely on their organisation, their context and their situation. Like fingerprints, no two organisations are the same, so each bridge needs to be built in its own unique way.

Building it will not be easy, and there will be setbacks and problems. But if organisations push forward in the right direction they will make progress, sometimes just one person at a time. It may not seem like a lot, but if one by one the workforce becomes more engaged, the engagement gap will close, organisations will be more successful and together we will make the world a better place to work.

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Glenn Elliott is founder and chief executive officer at Reward Gateway

Learn more by attending Glenn Elliott and Debra Corey’s conference session titled ‘Connecting with your people: The employee engagement bridge model’ at Employee Benefits Connect 2017 on 1 March 2017. Register to attend and view the full conference programme