HR’s role in employee engagement

How can HR help create higher employee engagement and commitment within organisations, and illustrate their added value? By Astrid van den Brink Erlandsson, 27.02.2015.

At present the challenge for the vast majority of organisations is how to create high levels of employee engagement and commitment. Decision makers recognise the added value of ‘I love my job’ (engagement) and ‘I love my organisation’ (commitment), and the two combine to create the best scenario for both employees and organisations.

Despite the recognition of the enormous added value the two can bring, there’s still some way to go before we realise the full potential of employees. Our latest employee research shows that globally 25.3% of employees are engaged and committed, whilst in Europe the figure is slightly lower at 23.9%.

Across Europe we also see large regional differences. Leading the way are the Nordics, where 27% of employees are engaged and committed. At the other end of the spectrum, just 17% of employees in the UK & Ireland are engaged and committed.

4 influencers of engagement and commitment

In our previous research (The essential guide to driving employee engagement in Europe) we investigated the influencers of engagement and commitment, and uncovered that the following four employee survey statements have the biggest influence:

  • My manager motivates me in my work
  • The work of my team contributes to the success of the organisation
  • I feel that I fit in at my organisation
  • I feel that I am appreciated by my organisation

From our work with multinationals we see that the above four influencers provide managers, CEOs and directors with tangible and actionable points that help improve engagement and commitment. Working alongside those individuals driving the two key themes, should also be HR.

HR have the tools and knowledge to really help drive engagement and commitment within organisations and in doing so, can show stakeholders both their contribution to business performance, as well as their added value as business partners.

By focusing on positively impacting the latter two influencers, we believe HR can help create high employee engagement and commitment in organisations, and illustrate their added value.

1. Employees fit within organisations

The first area that HR can positively impact is the cultural fit within organisations and this can be achieved in three ways:

Hiring based on cultural fit

The first clear and valuable role for HR is to focus on creating a match between employees and organisations’ culture, with the basis of such harmony beginning in the hiring process. Perspective employees should complement an organisation’s culture and there should be an immediate feeling from HR that the interviewee and organisation’s culture are a match. No matter how talented perspective employees may be, if there is any doubt about the cultural fit those prospects shouldn’t be hired.

Skills can be taught, cultural fit cannot.

Safeguarding culture

Once employees are hired, HR also has a key role in making sure new employees remain on board by safeguarding organisations’ culture. HR occupy a unique position within organisations as they are the mediators between organisations’ stakeholders and the business objectives, and employees. By inhabiting such a position, HR can make certain that the direction and strategy set by stakeholders fits with the culture of an organisation (the employees).  In doing so, HR add value by helping organisations to avoid any potentially damaging rifts that could jeopardise their culture.

Communication of values

Alongside safeguarding culture, HR have a duty to ensure the continuous communication of organisations’ values, and what they stand for. As mediators and business partners, HR are perfectly placed to facilitate the continuous communication by helping to keep organisational values on the agenda. Not only is this valuable for stakeholders, it also helps maintain employees’ feeling of belonging.

2. Appreciation from the organisation

Alongside cultural fit, HR can make sure that employees receive adequate appreciation from the organisation and add further value by:

Recognising performance

In liaison with managers, HR need to make sure that outstanding individual and team performances are recognised and rewarded. Taking the lead in sharing regular performance related insights (obtained from measuring tools such as engagement surveys) is one area where HR can illustrate real added value. Key organisational metrics should, for motivational and transparency purposes, be made visible throughout the organisation and no-one is better placed to do this than HR.

Building a culture of praise and recognition

As an extension of this, and to further drive engagement and commitment, the same insights can be used to build a culture of praise and recognition. Ideally, employees not only receive appreciation from managers, but also colleagues. Encouraging employees to do so and creating an environment where praise is well received has a tremendous positive impact, throughout all levels of organisations.

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