For decades, it was assumed that employees were motivated only by extrinsic factors such as pay, resources, and health plans. While those traditional benefits are certainly still a motivating factor for most workers, more and more research is showing that employee engagement also has a lot to do with how people feel at work.
The PeopleMetrics’ 2011 Employee Engagement Trends Report found that since 2007 pay raises have been minimal, but the emotional factors such as trust, opportunities for growth, recognition, and a strong customer focus have improved. Today’s employees are reporting more satisfaction with these emotional aspects of their work than they did a few years ago.
One of the most often cited emotional drivers of employee engagement is a sense of purpose. To encourage a sense of meaning among your employees (and thereby increase employee engagement), consider the tips listed below.
Look Beyond Mere Survival. Highlight the Big Picture.
If your focus as a leader is on simply making it until next week or next quarter, your employees will have a difficult time seeing the bigger purpose behind their roles. One way to improve this situation is to discuss each employee’s impact during performance reviews. For instance, the person who manages accounts payable at a dentist’s office may see himself as little more than a fancy bill-paying system, until his or her manager points out that his important accounting work keeps everyone organized enough to create a good setting for healing.
Share Positive Customer Feedback with Employees.
The 2011 PeopleMetrics Employee Engagement Trends Report found that employees want to be part of the customer experience solution. Just sharing customer feedback with employees can make them more engaged, especially when the feedback is positive. We found that 55% of employees who receive customer recognition are engaged, as compared with just 12% of employees who do not receive customer recognition. Similarly, employees whose managers tell them they have done a good job serving customers are 1.5 times more likely to agree with the statement, “I get a sense of purpose from my work.” Sharing customer feedback can be a powerful addition to any customer experience management strategy.
Study Your Most Engaged Employees.
High employee engagement is contagious for both customers (who tend to be more engaged when they interact with enthusiastic employees) and for other employees. In this sense, an investment in a Voice of the Employee program is an investment in customer engagement. We suggest choosing a Voice of the Customer solution that can help you identify which employees are consistently earning praise from customers. Next, you can study how those employees find meaning in their work, and train the rest of your workers to follow suit.
PeopleMetrics is not the only research group that has found a link between employee engagement and a sense of meaning. For instance, the Director of Research at Harvard Business School, Teresa Amabile, recently reported on her studies of employee engagement, saying that the most influential factor was, “making progress in meaningful work.” Amabile and her partners defined meaningful work as “work where the person is contributing something of real value, something they care about.” By implementing the actions described above, you can embed purpose and meaning into the employee experience.
Topic: Employee Experience