Employees are not the only ones who should be concerned with their well-being at the workplace. Often poorly understood and seldom prioritized employee engagement is important to an organization's success in several ways according to research by Victoria Grady, assistant professor of management at George Mason’s School of Business.
Grady and her colleagues U.S. Office of Personnel Management research psychologist Theodore L. Hayes, Rutgers University professor of human resource management Patrick F. McKay, performance improvement analyst Paul Thoresen, and Colorado State University professor of psychology Zinta Byrne found that the benefits of employee engagement are widespread.
“Organizational researchers have been able to demonstrate the correlations between job satisfaction, organizational climate, and employee engagement with valuable organization outcomes such as customer satisfaction, productivity, and safety,” tells Grady. “Employees who are engaged infect others with engagement and create a healthy thriving organization.”
Understanding if employees are engaged or disengaged can be difficult for organizations to discern. This is one reason that engagement is so poorly understood. Grady shares that an employee survey cannot truly measure employee engagement.
“Research has resulted in creating more compact measures that both reflect employee attitude and correlate with employee behavior and organizational outcomes, in addition to positive health-related factors,” Grady explains.
Employee engagement is, at its core, a state of motivation, when an employee is “in-the-moment,” physically energized, and mentally focused on the job. Grady’s research shows there are best practices when implementing strategies to increase engagement among employees. One way to enhance engagement is to identify an object within the organizational environment that employees can “attach to” for support—either in reality or perception.
Employee engagement can be especially tenuous during times of increased workplace stress or uncertainty within a company such as leadership changes or poor company profits. In a study with a large consulting firm, Grady and her team looked at how to keep employees engaged through a sizeable leadership change for the organization. The researchers used concepts grounded in attachment theory in an effort to identify an “object” employees could “attach to” in the midst of the organizational transition.
The organization purchased Tangles for their employees. These small twistable devices fit in your hand and are an ergonomic approach to minor stress relief and improved mental health and well-being. The Tangles had words on them representing the organization’s mission and vision, in hopes that this would help them to refocus their attention to something positive during the transition.
“We found that this simple attachment tool did help in smoothing anxiety and nerves and reminded the employees that the organization cared about what they were going through,” shares Grady. “The key takeaway from our research was that if employees feel supported during change they are much more likely to be engaged.”