Organizations have come to an understanding that in today’s ever-changing business scenario, the most valuable resource that needs to be leveraged is a human resource/workforce. This not just means attracting the crème-de-la-crème and retaining them but keeping them motivated and committed towards the organization’s goals. An engaged workforce produces better results for a business, does not hop jobs and most importantly is an ambassador of the organization as a whole at all points of time. This level of engagement is achieved only when people believe that their organization respects their efforts, their work contributes to the organization’s goals and more importantly, their personal aspirations of growth, rewards, and pay are met. The road to Employee engagement is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It reflects an employee’s engagement level as determined by how well their needs are being met. 

If the organizations learn the art of dealing/handling the employees at each level, they are already half-way there. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy

The following is an employee engagement hierarchy that was found at HRZone. Every employee goes through each of the following stages before reaching the top of the pyramid, as a high performer:

Employee engagement

1. Survival

Improving employee engagement is a task that starts with the organizations working from the ground up, meaning that the leaders must comprehend the most basic human needs in terms of why a particular individual has chosen to work in that particular organization. The most basic need of: survival. Employees at this level of engagement are doing the job to fulfill their most pressing needs, such as paying the bills and putting food on the table.

Interestingly, though over recent years employers have been pulling away from offering financial incentives to employees, Aon Hewitt’s 2013 report on Global Trends in Employee Engagement has found that pay has been the third most powerful driver of engagement (in 2012, “pay” took the sixth spot). What does this mean? That even though the pay may not regularly be contemplated when it comes to employee engagement initiatives, if this most basic of survival needs goes unmet, it will likely pose a considerable barrier to having a fully engaged employee. An employee who can’t meet their most basic everyday needs of survival, will not be able to display actions that require a higher level of engagement and interest like ideation. 

You might find this helpful: Employee Engagement: Best Ways To Boost Employee Engagement

Importance of employee engagement

2. Job Security

Coming second to pay and also reflecting a fundamental need is job security. In order to be engaged, employees need to feel that the job they are in is stable and secure before they invest more time and effort into their work.

But security is not simply a matter of whether an employee is on a permanent basis or a temporary/on-contract basis. The surrounding environment can have a huge impact on how secure an employee feels in his or her job role. For example, being understaffed or having knowledge of the other employees being laid off can make an employee feel threatened in his or her own job profile. Unless these issues are properly addressed by the management, then this, much like pay, might become a huge barrier to employee engagement. Creating employee feedback loops is an efficient way that managers can use to better understand what might be impacting an employee’s sense of security.

Employee

3. Sense of Belonging to/Part of a Team

Covering those first two bases lays the ground for a strong foundation for building an engaged staff. When in place, organizations can begin to shoot up their engagement efforts by first taking steps towards allowing employees to feel as if they truly belong in the organization and are not just there for the job. This is exactly where company culture is the key – having recently won the award for Great Places to Work in Canada, here are our Ways to design a perfect employee experience. An environment that fosters trust, recognizes efforts and successes and is lead by transparent and open leaders will allow your staff to feel less like “staff” and more like team members.

Encouraging trust and transparency can also be addressed by creating that employee feedback loop we mentioned in the previous stage. Generating that relationship sets the stage for the next level of engagement by helping employees be more accountable for their work.

4. Importance/Value

A study “What Drives Employee Engagement and Why It Matters” released in 2012 by MSW Research and Dale Carnegie Training declared one thing loud and clear: feeling valued by the leaders plays a very important role for an employee, to feel engaged in his or her job. 

According to the study, there are three chief drivers:

  • Relationship with the immediate supervisor
  • Belief in the senior leaders
  • Pride in working for the organization

Having a straight relationship with management has a far greater impact on employee engagement than expected.

Trust is the core of high performing employees. In fact, here are some of the results of organizations with a high level of trust:

  • 16% greater profit margin
  • 19% greater operating margin
  • 18% greater productivity
  • 2.6 times the earning-per-share growth of less-trusting companies.

Needless to say, trust helps improve not only engagement but also performance! Positive managerial relationships that display trust through candidness, communication, and regular support engage employees. Concealing information, providing little input or output, and seldom interacting with staff is a sure ticket to disengagement.

working employee

5. Self-Actualization

This is the stage that every organization should strive to build their employees up towards self-actualization. In this phase of engagement, experienced and well-informed employees actively seek ways to support the organization themselves by sharing their successes and their knowledge with others in the company. This has a recurrent effect and will continue to help create a larger force of engaged employees.

When employees have reached this level of engagement, they are actively trying to improve the way they work. The most obvious sign of a highly engaged employee is a gush of new ideas that they believe can help others perform better or solutions to small problems that cumulatively have a great impact.

The hierarchy of engagement meshes with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Here’s how they are fitting together:

hierarchy relating to employees

This hierarchy takes wings from the middle of Maslow’s, beginning with “Belonging.” Both “View” and “Support” fall within the “Belonging” range. This indicates that up to some level, employees believe that they are truly a part of the organization by taking the time to consider and share inputs on their colleagues’ ideas.

Next, we have “Share” and “Comment.” These two actions fall under the “Importance” category. This kind of action shows that individuals who partake in either activity believe that their thoughts and insight are valuable to others and to leadership. Through sharing and commenting, they show that they are personally investing time and interest in an idea.

Last and most exemplary is the “Ideas” phase. At this level, individuals are extremely engaged and are relentlessly coming up with ideas to improve processes that will continue to provide top quality work which correlates to “Self-Actualization”.

Positive organizational practices and relationships generate engagement—that we know for sure. Now the task that organizations must take on is figuring out how they can address and handle the barriers that may be standing in the way of their own staff’s engagement. There may be no one-size-fits-all solution for every company or even every employee, but with practice and growing experience, any organization can transform their sluggish staff into a happy, high-performance workforce.

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