Employee engagement has to do with treating employees as organizational assets not as liabilities. During the era of scientific management, organizations viewed employees as liabilities and as a result, they did not bother to invest in employee development because they believed that the compensation offered to employees was enough to keep them motivated. Organizations also treated employees with contempt.
Managers and supervisors harassed employees frequently and they did not give them an opportunity to micromanage their work but rather, the people were required to follow strict guidelines without questioning. However, in the contemporary organizations, employee engagement is seen as a major strategy of organizational development. Organizations which do not embrace employee engagement initiatives usually face many challenges such as increased turnover, reduced employee motivation, and lack of organizational efficiency and effectiveness.
This paper seeks to explore the role of human resource departments in employee engagement. It is argued that there is a business case for human resource departments to promote employee engagement initiatives. The reason is that employee engagement initiatives not only promote employees’ welfare but they also motivate employees and increase their loyalty. Various employee engagement initiatives and how they affect organizations’ bottom line are discussed in this paper.
Employee Engagement Initiatives
Communication is the transfer of information from one person or source to another. In organizational context, effective communication involves using the correct language in communication between employees and their seniors. The language used should be neutral and not offensive. For effective communication to be realized, managers should avoid discrimination of employees based on their position, age, gender, level of education, race, and religion.
It involves the training of employees on a continuous basis. Employees may be trained on various aspects of their job and other processes of an organization. Training of employees enables them to improve their performance and efficiency, which consequently positively impacts the productivity of the organization. Employee training also ensures that an organization makes maximum use of its human resources because well-trained employees are capable of multitasking.
Strong organizational culture
Culture is defined as people’s way of life. In the organizational context, culture refers to the norms, beliefs, attitudes, values, and perceptions of employees. Every organization exists in unique sociocultural, political, and technological environments. Organizations also vary in terms of their objectives, resources, mission, vision, philosophy, and approach of meeting their objectives. Every organization therefore creates a culture which enables it to navigate successfully towards meeting its objectives.
Organizational culture is learned implicitly through interaction within the organizational setting. New employees learn it by repeating after those employees who they find in organizations. This imitation happens unconsciously due to peoples’ instinct to adopt behaviors which make them fit in the social environment which they find themselves in. Through communication and interaction with each other, employees come up with norms, values, symbols, and ways of doing things which are unique to their organization.
Organizational culture enables organizations to meet their objectives and as a result, it is paramount for managers to try as much as possible create a culture which fosters unity, collaboration, harmony, and teamwork. The reason is that employees are social beings and there is a need to acknowledge their input by giving them the permission to be flexible while discharging their duties. When given the permission to be flexible, employees become motivated and maximize their talents, skills, and commitment to their work which increases productivity. The best organizational culture therefore is the one in which employees feel as if they are shareholders of the organization which they work for (Shuck, 2011).
Some organizations are managed using the human relations approach which is characterized by a radical shift from mechanistic to humanistic approach in the management of organizations. The humanistic approach to management is usually associated with strong organizational culture where more emphasis is placed on improving the work environment and making employees feel appreciated. In organizations with a strong culture, employees are perceived as crucial assets and are treated with respect, dignity, and understanding.
Such organizations also acknowledge that employees have the potential of being creative in their work. Consequently, supervision plays a minimal role because employees are capable of following the group norms and rules which govern their work. Organizations with a strong culture also recognize the importance of employees interacting with their managers in a friendly way without fear of victimization. When employees are afraid of their managers, they tend to work with their bodies but their minds and hearts are usually far away.
Strong organizational culture also boosts organizational efficiency because of the internalization of what is required of each and every employee. The sharing of values and beliefs creates a good work environment free from confusion, ambiguity or lack of understanding among the employees. A good work environment not only increases efficiency, but it also saves time because employees are able and free to consult each other. Employees also portray good behavior at work because they know what is right to and what is not right.
Furthermore, strong organizational culture promotes cohesion among various departments of an organization which in its turn leads to harmonization of organizational procedures, policies, and practices in each and every department. This cohesion creates proper use of organizational resources without sabotage. It also leads to sound, logical, and relevant polices on how to coordinate organizational activities in a manner that maximizes the organizations’ chances of realizing their mission and vision.
Cohesion among various organizational departments also facilitates the sharing of information by various departments which increases employees’ levels of understanding of how various departments work. The sharing of information is important because it enables employees to multitask, especially at times when staffs in some departments are not available. For example, the understanding of administrative issues in an organization by the head of accounting department may make him or her work on behalf of the head of the administration department when he or she is not present (Dinkel, 2014).
Strong organizational culture enhances control, good coordination, and consistency within an organization. The reason is that employees and management are in good terms and are able to agree informally on various procedures and practices without compromising the quality of organizational practices and services. Having a good understanding between employees and management saves time because employees implement the changes which they find necessary without having to wait for bureaucratic board meetings and discussions to approve even the slightest change in procedures or practices (Dinkel, 2014).
Such a strong culture is conducive for innovation. When managers and employees of an organization perceive each other as colleagues and not as rivals, the employees view the organization as their personal business and put all their efforts to ensure that it becomes successful. Such loyalty stimulates the employees to think of new ways of doing things which eventually leads to innovation and increased competitiveness.
Cohesive organizational culture
It refers to a culture where all members of an organization have similar beliefs and values (Shuck, 2010). These beliefs and values are implicit or explicit to the organization. In this kind of culture, the organizational structure does not matter but what matters most is the commitment of each member of the organization to these beliefs and values. For example, an organization may value hard work, cohesiveness, and teamwork and believe in transparency, faithfulness, work ethics, and morality (Shuck, 2010).
A cohesive organizational culture has the benefit of increasing motivation of employees because they share common beliefs and values. When employees are highly motivated, there is a minimal use of resources in their supervision which in turn increases their productivity because to them, what matters the most is the welfare of the organization but not their personal benefits.
Another benefit of cohesive organizational culture is that it facilitates the alignment of organizations to achieve their objectives, mission, and vision without many challenges. The reason is that employees are able to internalize what the organizations aspire to achieve. The internalization not only increases organizational productivity but also makes employees more motivated to accomplish the set organizational goals and objectives in a timely manner.
These are semi-autonomous teams of employees which are formed to perform some specific tasks. Organizations encourage employees to work in teams instead of working independently. Collaborative work gives employees an opportunity to exercise their creativity, innovativeness, skills, and talents. It also enables the team members to learn from the strengths and the diverse experiences of each other. When people work in teams, they learn how to welcome positive criticism.
Teamwork is a necessary condition for development of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of employees. Intrinsic motivation comes from employees and is characterized by the need to achieve good results, passion in work, ambition to acquire new knowledge, and the need to be successful at the workplace. Extrinsic motivation arises from things which are external to employees and include things like appreciation, rewards, increased salaries or wages, promotions, and congratulatory messages.
Motivation enables employees to learn new skills from each other and from other sources. They also find out about new ways and strategies of doing things or improving their operations at the workplace. Motivation of employees makes them acquire positive values, beliefs, norms, and attitudes towards their organization. Positive values include things like hard work, faithfulness, commitment, respect, and appreciation.
Teamwork enables employees to form group norms. The norms govern the conduct of employees and constitute what is allowed and disallowed in different organizations. It also ensures that employees work collectively and are allowed to micromanage their work in order to boost efficiency and effectiveness which in turn improves the quality of organizational internal processes. In the spirit of teamwork, employees are also involved in making decisions regarding their performance with the aim of ensuring that the production of new products or introduction of new procedures reflects their expectations (Shuck, 2010).
Teamwork training exposes employees to various challenges and ways of dealing with those challenges. During the training, employees learn how to accept positive criticism from others. They also support each other with different ideas, views, and suggestions on how to improve their work. The ability to come up with solutions to various challenges transforms employees into transformational leaders (Russell, 2013). The reason is that teamwork enables the team members to organize their work properly through development of work plans and schedules which are in harmony with organizational policies. Such strategy also increases flexibility of employees because they work as per their schedules (Rivera, 2011).
Leadership is defined as the ability of a person to influence other people to do things which they would not have done without the influence. People with this ability are referred to as leaders and are found in different contexts. According to Robert Greenleaf and Larry Spears, servant leadership involves a leadership derived from the passion to serve rather than to lead. This definition portrays a servant leader as the one who does not keep things to himself or herself, but the one who applies efforts to reach others for them to get involved in making decisions which affect them.
Servant leadership transforms managers into leaders thus creating what is known as management leadership. Having managers who are leaders is very crucial for organizations which aspire to meet their goals and objectives. The reason is that management leadership goes the extra mile to focus not only on the tasks to be performed, but also on how they are supposed to be performed and what can be done to enhance the performance of those tasks (Russell, 2013).
Servant leaders are ever focused on the enhancement of employees’ skills and development of their organizations. They are also committed to the establishment of communities of people within organizations. These communities of people enhance organizational cohesiveness which is crucial for organizational success. Servant leadership leads to establishment of teams which work together.These teams give themselves a social identity which holds them together (Russell, 2013).
Under the servant leadership philosophy, all members of organizations are involved in identifying organizational goals and development procedures for reaching these goals. The role of the servant leader is to facilitate the attainment of organizational goals. In organizations with servant leadership, employees are able to give their suggestions freely and are involved in decision making. The morale, capacity, and relationship between leaders and employees are greatly improved. Servant leadership enhances teamwork and employees’ performance thus creating a productive work environment. If servant leadership is adopted by leaders, employees are likely to use their skills and capabilities to their fullest.
Human resources are essential for the success of organizations and therefore, there is need for organizations to promote employee engagement initiatives such as effective communication, teamwork, strong organizational culture, and servant leadership. The promotion of these initiatives aims at creating cohesive organizations in which all members of organizations have common beliefs, values, and aspirations. Cohesion forms a strong basis for organizational efficiency and effectiveness which enable organization to achieve growth and expansion. Cohesion in organizations also facilitates the utilization of organizational resources in a prudent way.
Employee engagement initiatives also enable organizations to have a workforce which is not only highly productive but also loyal and dedicated to improving organizational productivity. Organizations which embrace employee engagement initiatives are able to increase their competitiveness and outperform those which do not, and for this reason, there is a business case for human resource departments to promote employee engagement initiatives.
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