Why the traditional methods for fostering employee engagement are failing

I’ve been playing jetsetter delivering training to clients across the country. In a climate of constant change, one common theme keeps coming up in conversation. Employee engagement.

Employee engagement is a long-held obsession for a lot of Australian organisations, who recognise it as being critical to worker productivity, retention & overall organisational performance. Despite this, according to a recent global survey from Aon Hewitt, just 24% of employees are highly engaged at work.

The traditional methods for fostering employee engagement – such as investing in learning & development opportunities & reward & recognition schemes – are ultimately failing. Whilst well-intentioned, they typically only result in a short-term boost in engagement – without addressing the basic foundational need of employees – personal wellbeing – they will ultimately fall short.

Think about it. If employees don’t bring their best selves to work each day, & work in an environment which support their physical & mental wellbeing, nothing else matters. If they’re not eating & sleeping well, keeping active & managing their stress, they’ll lack the concentration, energy & drive to be engaged with their work & perform at their best. As with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a foundation of employee health & wellness is the first & most important step to achieving sustainable employee engagement.

Research from Right Management confirms that when health & wellness is managed well in organisations, employee engagement increases 8 fold. We also know that healthier & engaged employees equal more satisfied customers. In a study undertaken in the NHS (U.K.) organisations which had favourable staff wellbeing had better attendance, lower staff turnover, less agency spend & higher patient satisfaction & outcome measures. The study concluded that ‘NHS organisations must invest in the health & wellbeing of their workforce if they are to deliver sustainable, high quality services’.

As renowned entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson states: “Take care of your employees, & they’ll take care of your business.”