Helen Giles, Managing director
Organisations with high level of employee engagement perform better than those that don’t. Helen Giles explains hot to develop a highly engaged team.
Employee engagement is the contemporary version of what used to be known as staff motivation. It is typically measured by means of an employee engagement index – the percentage of people who answer positively to certain questions contained within a staff survey. It tells you what proportion of your staff feel motivated to put their best efforts into their work.
There is a wealth of research evidence now to show that those organisations which have high employee engagement are significantly higher performing than those where employees are disaffected.
At team level you can tell what a highly engaged team looks like without measuring it. Members turn up to work regularly on time, work together enthusiastically and harmoniously, have a visible passion to serve their beneficiaries or internal customers, and take the weight off the manager’s shoulders by demonstrating initiative.
Obviously, every manager would love to work with such a team. However, such staff teams do not crystallise by magic. The organisation and the team manager have to be prepared to invest serious time and effort into their people. The fact that a charity’s employees work for a cause is not of itself sufficient.
WHAT DOES ACTUALLY MOTIVATE PEOPLE?
After years of asking groups of new inductees of all ages what motivates and demotivates them at work, I have found the answers to be remarkably consistent.
A clear sense of purpose. Fully involve your staff and your beneficiaries in setting the long-term goals of the organisation (and the team) and agreeing the values. Then regularly communicate progress against the goals.
Empowering line management. Train your managers to set clear objectives and standards, give regular structured feedback, support people’s learning plans, motivate teams and hold people to account. Ensure the performance of managers is assessed against these expectations as much as against their own role-specific contribution.
Encouragement to be creative. Give people clear goals with autonomy to achieve them in their own way without being micromanaged. Make opportunities for people to go beyond their job description and take on new challenges with support and coaching.
Acknowledgment and thanks. Everyone wants recognition for a job well done. Appraisal and supervision are important for this, but so are things like highlighting specific achievements in your in-house bulletins and having simple non-financial recognition schemes.
People’s voices heard. It’s really important that people are fully consulted and involved at the earliest possible stage on any proposed changes that affect them or their work. Beyond this, people need to feel that they can have a voice in the running and future of the organisation, and so can get involved in things like staff advisory councils, internal surveys and follow-up focus groups, and task and finish groups.
Fair salary and terms and conditions. Pay is not a motivator, but unfairness in pay is a very big demotivator. Make sure you are paying as well as your immediate comparators, and that internal differences in pay are not random but objectively justified.
Commitment to employee wellbeing. This means good health and safety training; a visible commitment to managing the main risks in your workplace, including stress; training managers to recognise the signs of mental distress; providing an employee assistance programme; and retaining the services of an occupational health adviser to support staff and the manager in cases of ill health.
Flexible working. Flexible working hours with flexi-time accrual is the most popular and motivational benefit there is, yet from what I have seen this is a less widespread offering among non-for-profits than used to be the case. In the absence of such a scheme, people will be more inclined to take time off sick when domestic circumstances throw curveballs into their routines.
For charities, it’s a simple win-win. Recognising the importance of boosting employee morale and motivation, and taking steps to improve employee engagement, means a huge return on investment in terms of staff retention and better quality of service for your beneficiaries. Can you really afford not to engage with your staff?