Make Work Happy: How Employee Engagement and Passion Grow Businesses

Dr. Alex Gapud of scarlettabott shares his expertise.

Dr. Alex Gapud is a Cul­tur­al Anthro­pol­o­gist at scar­let­tab­bott, an employ­ee engage­ment com­pa­ny in the UK. His per­son­al mis­sion state­ment is to make work not suck for peo­ple.” His pas­sion is to encour­age peo­ple to be excit­ed about going to work every morn­ing and he does this through the use of orga­ni­za­tion­al anthro­pol­o­gy. Work is such an impor­tant part of life. Most peo­ple spend the major­i­ty of their time and effort on devel­op­ing their careers. Dr. Alex knows that work won’t always be fun, but it shouldn’t be mis­er­able either. 

Work is inte­gral to our iden­ti­ties, for bet­ter or for worse. It is pos­si­ble to make work bet­ter — through the use of employ­ee engagement. 

What Is Employee Engagement?

Employ­ee engage­ment is the com­mit­ment and emo­tion­al con­nec­tion employ­ees have to the orga­ni­za­tion in which they work. It should come as no sur­prise, then, that a more engaged employ­ee is a hap­pi­er employ­ee — and hap­pi­er employ­ees are more pro­duc­tive. How then to mea­sure employ­ee engage­ment? Cul­tur­al anthro­pol­o­gists study this engage­ment through ethnography. 

Ethnog­ra­phy is a major facet of orga­ni­za­tion­al anthro­pol­o­gy. While an employ­ee sur­vey can pro­vide per­cent­ages and oth­er impor­tant sta­tis­tics, it tends to give a one-dimen­sion­al point of view of what’s real­ly hap­pen­ing with­in an orga­ni­za­tion. Num­bers have faces and sta­tis­tics have sto­ries, but there’s a lived human expe­ri­ence on the oth­er side. 

Anthro­pol­o­gists use ethnog­ra­phy to go beyond num­bers and stats to get to the root of whether team mem­bers are actu­al­ly sat­is­fied and hap­py at work. It’s a qual­i­ta­tive research method that allows anthro­pol­o­gists to immerse them­selves in the world of their subjects. 

Study­ing the employ­ee expe­ri­ence can involve many meth­ods includ­ing shad­ow­ing, in-per­son or online jour­nals and sit­ting in on meet­ings. The anthro­pol­o­gists may also include an employ­ee focus group and work to build trust between employ­ees and their teams, orga­ni­za­tion­al lead­ers, man­agers and employers. 

No mat­ter which way you look at it, employ­ee engage­ment is essen­tial if you want your new hires to feel a sense of belong­ing, increase employ­ee reten­tion and gen­er­al­ly cre­ate a bet­ter work envi­ron­ment for everyone.

The Benefits of Working With Happy People

Know­ing the def­i­n­i­tion of employ­ee engage­ment and how orga­ni­za­tion­al anthro­pol­o­gy mea­sures it, can help bet­ter under­stand the ben­e­fits of employ­ee engage­ment. A dis­en­gaged employ­ee doesn’t have the same job sat­is­fac­tion as an engaged employ­ee. This has a direct impact on the qual­i­ty of work they pro­duce, as well as employ­ee turnover. A sat­is­fied employ­ee is like­ly to stick around for longer and do their best work. 

When your team mem­bers are sat­is­fied with their jobs, they have no rea­son to look for work else­where. This is huge in terms of employ­ee reten­tion, which is a hot top­ic post-pan­dem­ic. A pos­i­tive work envi­ron­ment with a focus on recog­ni­tion, oppor­tu­ni­ty and trans­paren­cy will nur­ture employ­ee engage­ment and result in pos­i­tive atti­tudes and job satisfaction. 

High employ­ee sat­is­fac­tion is there­fore direct­ly cor­re­lat­ed to high employ­ee engage­ment. And, as men­tioned, high employ­ee engage­ment can have a pos­i­tive impact on pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. While this is per­haps the most ben­e­fi­cial aspect of a high­ly engaged work­force, there are some oth­er key advan­tages to employ­ee satisfaction. 

You may even ben­e­fit from increased cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. Engaged employ­ees care about their work and it’s only nat­ur­al then to want to pro­vide excel­lent ser­vice to their cus­tomers. If you’re a human resources (HR) pro­fes­sion­al and are strug­gling to get your high­er-ups on board to cre­ate a more pos­i­tive work envi­ron­ment, recent research sug­gests that cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion can actu­al­ly increase with employ­ee satisfaction. 

Employ­ee engage­ment can also result in few­er safe­ty inci­dents, low­er absen­teeism and health­i­er team mem­bers. The ben­e­fits clear­ly out­weigh any challenges.

The Top Drivers of Employee Engagement

When you’re able to increase com­pa­ny trust and cre­ate a cul­ture of belong­ing (major pil­lars of engage­ment), every­one wins. 

There are a few impor­tant core val­ues that dri­ve employ­ee hap­pi­ness and engage­ment. They include:

  • Effec­tive communication

  • Bet­ter work culture

  • Trust in executives

  • Trans­paren­cy

  • Flex­i­bil­i­ty

  • Moti­vat­ing work

Cul­tur­al anthro­pol­o­gists like Dr. Alex note that one of the most impor­tant fac­tors in increas­ing employ­ee sat­is­fac­tion is mak­ing sure that exec­u­tives, C‑suite lead­ers and gen­er­al man­agers are will­ing to lis­ten to their peo­ple. Carv­ing out more time with their team mem­bers to do that lis­ten­ing first­hand can be tru­ly ben­e­fi­cial. It goes back to those core val­ues: trust in exec­u­tives, trans­paren­cy and effec­tive communication.

HR pro­fes­sion­als also have a large role to play, espe­cial­ly when it comes to cre­at­ing employ­ee engage­ment strate­gies and action plans. That said, every­one in the orga­ni­za­tion has an impor­tant role. The first and cru­cial step to suc­cess is to be inten­tion­al and come up with a plan.

Creating an Employee Engagement Action Plan

An employ­ee engage­ment action plan is a good start­ing point for ensur­ing employ­ee sat­is­fac­tion with­in an orga­ni­za­tion. It shows that you’re com­mit­ted to mov­ing your cul­ture for­ward and can con­tribute much toward cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive work environment. 

These action plans aid in iden­ti­fy­ing and devel­op­ing engage­ment dri­vers. They also show your peo­ple that you’re com­mit­ted to mak­ing real change where it’s need­ed and can serve as a blue­print for when and how those changes will be made. A qual­i­ty employ­ee engage­ment plan is a pow­er­ful tool that can help HR pro­fes­sion­als cre­ate the best pos­si­ble work­ing con­di­tions for employees.

Here are some basic steps to fol­low when cre­at­ing your employ­ee engage­ment action plan:

  1. Dis­trib­ute employ­ee engage­ment sur­veys to your team

  2. Study the sur­vey results

  3. Choose your area of focus

  4. Come up with action­able solutions

  5. Make a com­mit­ment to take action

  6. Update your team on your progress

No mat­ter what area you choose to focus on, there are some gen­er­al best prac­tices that you can imple­ment. These include reg­u­lar all-hands meet­ings, one-on-one check-ins with every­one on your team to gauge how they’re feel­ing at work and where improve­ments can be made. Team-build­ing activ­i­ties are also ben­e­fi­cial, such as com­pa­ny hap­py hour (with or with­out alco­hol, online or in-per­son) or retreats. 

At first glance, some of these strate­gies may seem a bit osten­ta­tious, but they shouldn’t be. The first stage of the jour­ney toward cre­at­ing employ­ee engage­ment is the intent to lis­ten and under­stand. Start talk­ing to your peo­ple, be present, ask ques­tions, spend time with dif­fer­ent teams and dif­fer­ent peo­ple. To be able to put a face to a name, in terms of peo­ple know­ing who you are and you know­ing who they are, is so help­ful — this is espe­cial­ly impor­tant in the face of remote work or hybrid solutions. 

Moving Forward in the Face of Hybrid Work Environments

Post-pan­dem­ic, many orga­ni­za­tions have cho­sen to remain ful­ly remote, while oth­ers have decid­ed to imple­ment hybrid work envi­ron­ments in which com­ing into the office is option­al. This has had a direct impact on employ­ee engage­ment and work cul­ture, but it doesn’t have to be a neg­a­tive one. Instead of look­ing at it as a major hur­dle or chal­lenge, embrace these new work­ing con­di­tions and build a brag-wor­thy cul­ture nonetheless. 

While the way we look at employ­ee engage­ment may have to change, that doesn’t mean it has to dis­ap­pear. You will always have a work­place cul­ture as long as peo­ple are inter­linked, no mat­ter where they are in the world. Experts like Dr. Alex say that hybrid solu­tions are prefer­able, as they also offer the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­nect in per­son while remain­ing flex­i­ble. From an anthro­po­log­i­cal per­spec­tive, there is some­thing pow­er­ful in being in the same place and expe­ri­enc­ing things collectively. 

Whether you’re in a tra­di­tion­al office set­ting, ful­ly remote, or a com­bi­na­tion of the two, employ­ee engage­ment is as impor­tant as ever. Don’t under­es­ti­mate it — make it your top pri­or­i­ty, and your employ­ees and cus­tomers will thank you for it. 

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