Meaning at Work
Several types of research have been carried out to demonstrate the importance of employee engagement and its implication for managers. The diagnoses of these studies have been to determine the factors that enhance employee engagement. The Penna Research Report (2007) deduced that the meaning at work was a very important factor for uniting employees and their employers. When people work in unity, they experience a sense of belonging to a community, the freedom to be themselves and the chance to contribute and participate freely and this way, they are able to find meaning as well. Employees would always want to be associated with sensitive workplaces that recognize their feelings, ambitions, and efforts.
Researchers of Penna report (2007) have devised a new model that they have referred to as the hierarchy of engagement. This new model is almost similar to the famous needs hierarchy model that was developed by Abraham Maslow. At the bottom line, the model identifies the employee needs as the very basic things that they often expect from work (for example, pay and work-related benefits). As the employee advances in their career and once they have already met their basic needs, they seek developmental opportunities, a chance to get promoted and finally, positions in leadership (Macey & Schneider, 2008, p. 5).
In 2006, BlessingWhite undertook studies and the research findings revealed that of the workers interviewed, 60% of them wished that they would have a chance to not only develop their respective careers, but also move up the corporate ladder for increased satisfaction. Consequently, the research identified that strong connection between managers and workers was very crucial for enhancing employee engagement and retention.
Markos and Sridevi (2010, p. 91) recognize the Development Dimension International’s activities that can help to develop the highest engagement among the workforce. These activities include; align the employee effort with the organization’s strategy, empowering the employees, helping workers to grow and develop their goals and ambitions, promoting and encouraging teamwork effort and collaboration of departments and providing support recognition and appraisal for employees (Markos & Sridevi, 2010, p. 91).
In the hospitality industry, the welfare of employees is very important because they are the image of the company and at the service of the clients most of the time. This means that when these employees lose touch with the company or become disengaged, they will provide poor services to customers, fail to interrelate well with clients and consequently clients will pick a very negative picture of the company. They will hence not like to repurchase such services (Markos & Sridevi, 2010, p. 91). The end results are that it’s the company or the organization that loses customers and its reputation.
Different researchers identify different factors to be the most important for developing employee engagement (Macey & Schneider, 2008, p. 5). However, these are among the top listed factors for effective worker engagement;
- Top management interest in individual worker’s welfare
- Effective Communication (Kent, 2007, p. 33)
- Spreading Decision making authority and
- Providing challenging work
Essentially, all these factors point to one key aspect of engagement which is to make employees feel involved and valued as their places of work (Markos & Sridevi, 2010, p. 91). This is in line with the Maslow’s need to belong and it is backed by Gallup’s data which imply that workers feel that the management is concerned or care about their wellbeing and hence become more trustworthy. Besides having a sense of belonging, research by CIPD (2006) shows that communication is also very crucial for demonstrating that leaders are concerned about their employees’ well-being. Specifically, when employees can freely express their views and opinions and be heard by management, it gives them a sense of importance and therefore builds their involvement in the organization (Markos & Sridevi, 2010, p. 95). There is also a great impact of being informed on what is happening in the organization and this can create good relationships where employees are not left out of important organization strategies and transformation.
Essentially, workers have to be aware of their working environment because it affects their practices. Employee engagement according to Vance, 2006 is the result of individual attributes like work skills, familiarity, temperament, personality and mind-set as influenced by organizational attributes like work environment, management (leadership) and social and Human resource activities (Vance, 2006. 103).
It is pertinent to note that most of the drivers of employee engagement were not financial hence organizations that have dedicated to management can attain the desired level of engagement with very minimal expenses. Good performance in many organizations is linked to good reward. However, this just emphasizes the fact that workers cannot be rewarded and motivated by money alone. Both the pay and benefits are pertinent for each employee. Hospitality industry requires employees who are motivated from within in order to deliver rather than those trying to fake their happiness when interacting with customers.
Employee Engagement Strategies
There are several signs that can clearly show that an organization is not doing well in terms of employee engagement and this includes when employees no longer think their work is so important, when they do not feel appreciated at work and when they lose the passion and purpose for working. Any of these signs require concern from managers because managers who do not take care of their employees lose a lot in terms of job turn out, reduced productivity, and profits. Gallup reports that companies in the top 24% of employee engagement suffered very low job turnover and amazingly higher loyalty, productivity hence higher profits and revenues.
Employees are human beings and therefore are responsive beings. Accordingly, When the top managers give them priority, the employees in turn will give the organization whatever is needed of them (Macey & Schneider, 2008, p. 5). Taking this into account, the following are some of the essential strategies of developing employee engagement:
Begin it From the Start: many organizations have devised a new talent acquisition process that allows them to tap the best employee during the recruitment exercise. However after getting these employees, there is usually lack of retention program to keep them in the organizations long enough. Effective recruitment and orientation programs are usually the first activities that would begin in the process of developing employee engagement immediately the person joins the company. Managers are required to be very careful when identifying talent of new workers via effective recruitment and ensure that the new employees are given proper general orientation of the company. Emphasize should be given to the major driving forces to company objectives like the mission, values, vision, policies and procedures (Macey et al, 2010, p. 152). Besides this, there should be specific orientation for that particular job to orientate them with their new duties and responsibilities and goals of the department. Following recruitment, there is the need to ensure role-talent fit.
Besides beginning the culture of engagement from the start, it should also begin from the top managers. If employees do not see commitment by the management, they may not develop the required level of involvement. Besides, if the management is committed to the employee engagement, the same will trickle down to the employee and this enhances leadership and the entire workforce can feel involved in the growth and development of the organization.
Reciprocal Communication: employees are not just a set of company equipment but social beings who take in ideas, process and need to give their reactions to the listening ear. Employees need to have a say in an organization where they can respond to management’s ideas, opinions and decisions (Kent, 2007, p. 33). When an organization is able to have a clear and consistent communication of what is happening in the organization in terms of expectations and values, employees tend to find connection to it. Managers therefore need to involve employees in decision-making processes (Abiodun, 2009, p. 9). The feedback system should be efficient in giving the outcome of employee performance.
Employees should also be given everything that is required for doing their work where resources, financial and physical are provided in time for effective working.
Opportunities and Training: workers should be given job autonomy so that they can function independently. This way, they can make independent decisions based on their own best ways of performing their job to produce the required outcomes (Macey et al, 2010, p. 152). Management should be based on the results and not the whole process of producing the results. This freedom gives employees a sense of power and ownership and they will likely give their best performance considering that there will be an accountability process in place. Besides having autonomy, employees still require standard and relevant training for their job (Abiodun, 2009, p. 9). This liberal way of working is good but there are new skills and knowledge being developed in the industry continually (Macey et al, 2010, p. 152). When employees get to know more about their work, it increases their confidence to work independently without abusing their job autonomy. They will also be able to attach themselves more to the organization because it seems to care about their training needs.
Incentives and Reward: as previously indicated, besides the financial pay, employees need other benefits to bolster their zeal to work hence increase their engagement in the organization. By recognizing and rewarding employees’ efforts and outstanding performance at work, managers are able to encourage employee attachment to the organization (Kent, 2007, p. 5). Employees play a significant role in the service industry since they offer that first impression and personal touch to the customers. This is essentially before the customers have a chance to experience the services; therefore the employees are pertinent elements that customers interact with to guide their attitudes and expectations of the hospitality service company.
Customers interact with employees continuously in the hospitality service industry just like they do with servicescapes; therefore, managers should give employees the necessary attention and support needed. Gallup research indicates that there is very low job turnover among employees who reported that their efforts and good performance was recognized and appreciated by their employers (Kent, 2007, p. 5 ). These workers also showed increased and better productivity hence confirming that recognition and praise is effective in developing engagement (Kent, 2007, p. 5).
Research on employee psychology has reported that people’s experiences of their own welfare and the workplace affected their personal levels of engagement at the workplace. The main idea behind these findings has been adequately addressed by Kahn, (1990, 700). Kahn argues that workers employ and convey or pull out and defend their favoured selves based on their psychological experiences. There are three conditions that are explained here and they include safety, availability, and meaningfulness (Kahn, 1990, p. 700).
People feel meaningful when they are considered worthwhile, causable and useful, and more so when they have employed exceptional efforts that cannot be taken for granted. They feel they can support others and give their best to the organization (Kahn, 1990, p. 712). People definitely invest themselves at the workplace even when it is very challenging to do so. Tasks, roles and work characteristics influence the psychological meaningfulness workers experience.
Psychological safety is experienced when an employee is able to freely engage him/ herself without fearing any negative consequences to his/her reputation, career or status. To improve on this factor, managers need to work on organizational norms, efficient management styles, teamwork dynamics and interpersonal interaction (Kahn, 1990, p. 723). This will enhance cohesiveness at work and joint effort towards common goals hence better engagement.
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BlessingWhite., 2006. Employee Engagement Report 2006, Princeton, New Jersey: BlessingWhite, Inc.
Kahn, W.A., 1990. Psychological Condition Of Personal Engagement And Disengagement At Work, Academy Of Management Journal, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 692-734.
Kent, M.B., 2007. 12 – The Elements of Great Managing By Rodd Wagner and James Harter. New York: Gallup Press.
Macey, W and Schneider, B., 2008, ‘The Meaning of Employee Engagement,’ Industrial and Organisational Psychology, Vol. 1 issue 1, pp. 3 – 28.
Macey, W.H., Schneider, B and Barbera, K.M., 2010. Employee Engagement: Tools for Analysis, Practice, and Competitive Advantage. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
Markos, S and Sridevi, S.M., 2010, ‘Employee Engagement: The Key to Improving Performance,’ International Journal of Business and Management, Vol. 5, No. 12, pp. 89-95.
Penna., 2007, Meaning at Work Research Report, Web.
Vance, R.J., 2006. Employee Engagement and Commitment. Alexandria: SHRM Foundation.