Why engage employees? HR experts say that employees who have autonomy and the ability to make decisions and be accountable are happier, motivated and more productive. But they have to know they are supported by their managers and equipped with the right tools to do their job.
What about managers? They are faced with the challenge of dealing with a highly diversified and mobile workforce, making it more difficult to establish credibility and trust. It is difficult for managers to engage their employees if they are not engaged themselves.
At a conference held in May on developing employee engagement in challenging times, more than 50 industrial psychologists, HR managers, researchers and corporate leaders shared their knowledge and experience to offer solutions on how to engage employees in a context of unpredictability. A healthy workforce was singled out as a contributing factor.
François Labrecque, Talent Management Advisor in Human Resources at McGill, came back from the conference encouraged by what he heard from organizations considered best-in-class. “It was energizing to hear what organizations like Hydro-Québec and Banque Nationale are doing to engage employees,” he explained. “Much of what I heard is in line with current thinking at McGill. The need to inform our employees about different decisions made was a common theme expressed by several speakers. ”
Other levers include letting employees be heard and giving them a greater say in decision-making. It is also crucial to clarify roles and responsibilities so that employees know what is expected of them. Greater alignment with the business objectives and priorities is fundamental. Recognition is also a key factor in engaging employees.
Emphasis was placed on the role of the immediate supervisor, who represents the employer, but who is also the person an employee will turn to when faced with work-related or personal problems.
The link with health and wellbeing
Statistics show that mental health problems cost Canadian companies $33 billion in direct and indirect costs. The Quebec government attributes 45% of its budget to health. Because of its own mounting costs in health-care, it has created the Healthy Enterprise certification system, aimed at encouraging organizations to promote health in the workplace, primarily through health and wellbeing programs.
Numbers presented by the Bureau de Normalisation du Québec, which manages the certification program, show that on average 17% of an organization’s salary mass is attributed to direct and indirect non-health costs. Through its certification program, the government counts on the positive outcome that health and wellbeing programs can have not only on employees but on their families as well.
Organizations with a health and wellbeing program have seen increases of up to 12% in productivity where employees are physically active. Major organizations have adopted programs aimed at promoting healthy lifestyle habits such as nutrition, physical activity, work-life balance and stress management.
McGill also has a health and wellbeing program in place with similar objectives. And the University is fortunate to be able to count on its own experts to promote the cause (see the related-story on the Boost Your Health 2012 series).
Health and wellbeing: a connection to employee engagement
How is health and wellbeing tied to employee engagement? Employees who are supported by their managers are less stressed. They have more energy and are more motivated, which in turns leads to greater output and performance, factors that contribute to their engagement at work.
According to François, “McGill already has a number of programs such as Performance Dialogue, focused on talent management, including support to employees in health and wellbeing. Attending conferences like this serves to validate that we are on the right track in offering relevant organizational development programs to our people.”