Employee Engagement: Cultivating Human Connections Toward Sustainable Results

By Jason McDaniel – Vice President for Employee & Student Assistance Programs, AllOne Health

Today’s employers are desperately seeking Employee Engagement. A growing body of research suggests that an employee’s positive connection and commitment toward his employer leads to notably higher levels of productive work behaviors as well as sustainable upticks in the willingness to play a meaningful role in resilient organizational change. In addition to these vital deliverables, employees who are more meaningfully attached to their organization show reduced turnover, lowered absenteeism, increased customer-focus, and higher levels of performance on specific work initiatives. Employee engagement transcends mere job satisfaction or emotionally-oriented attachment to coworkers to become a type of focused and actionable intent. Being engaged implies a purposeful, committed motivation to achieve business outcomes. It is a kind of loyal volitional attention to organizational goals
and objectives over the course of time.

Yet, engagement is increasingly difficult to achieve in the modern context, in large part because of the macro forces at play in both the business world as well as in broader society. In August 2019, Gallup reported that only 34% of the US workforce is considered “engaged” in their workplace. We now live in a world of increased complexities, stressors, and demands on our time, attention, and energies leading to a heightened sense of fragmentation. Some of the broader cultural themes that drive this cycle include:

(1) The explosion of technologies that hyper-stimulate our everyday experience
(2) A 24-7 rhythm replete with instant gratification and limited time for self-care
(3) Increased scheduling and work-life balance demands
(4) A growing bombardment of information that we must digest in order to successfully navigate our experience to make good decisions

Further, we have morphed into a society of diminished loyalties in our personal as well as our business relationships. The business world has seen accelerating trends of tenuous commitments with contingent labor arrangements unseating the historically honored social contract of work, in which employees are commit to employers for life. This frayed social contract has been exacerbated by a short-term quarterly focus as the new norm, by business cycle compression, and by the new mantra of doing more with less.

Yet this myopic focus on immediate results cannot deliver true sustainability for individuals or companies. To cultivate a culture for employee engagement, organizations must take time to invest in growing relationships and forging genuine human connections to create a sense of shared experience and meaning among the team. Transparently sharing relevant business information, tangibly supporting work-life balance and employee well-being through generous employee benefits programs, maintaining a focus on career growth and development, and recognizing and rewarding high performance are strongly correlated with increased engagement. By cultivating a spirit of intentional community, employers not only help buffer staff against omnipresent stress and change, they also create an environment for high performance that is sustainable over time. This is a clear illustration of how committed investments in human capital generate lasting business returns.

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