It is no secret that there is a positive correlation between highly engaged workforces and strong employee productivity and business performance. Depending on who you talk to the numbers may vary, but all the data points to the fact that engagement drives performance. With all of this recent attention on employee engagement and its impact, it’s not surprising that boosting engagement is becoming a number one priority of C-level executives around the globe, a claim supported by Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends survey.
Before we dig deeper, it is important that we understand exactly what employee engagement is. At its core, employee engagement measures the emotional commitment an employee has to his or her organization and its goals and objectives. The outcome of high engagement is employees putting discretionary effort into their work. They go the extra mile, push themselves a little bit harder to achieve their goals, and do just about anything that betters the organization. The collective impact of these bursts of discretionary effort leads to a noticeable increase in productivity, performance and business outcomes.
So how do you achieve a highly engaged workforce? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, because every organization is different. But, the trick to figuring out the path to success is tapping into the heart of what your employees value the most. Generally speaking, the factors that tend to have the greatest impact on employees’ engagement levels include: senior leadership, direct manager, corporate communication, recognition and rewards, relationship with co-workers, empowerment, and career path. The impact of each of these factors can be measured collectively as overall “engagement,” as they connect with and influence one another in varying degrees.
What if we further dive into the interconnected elements that impact employee engagement? First let me ask you a question. Let’s take a look at a fictitious company called “Company G” that is made up of 80 employees. If all 80 employees looked the same, behaved the same, possessed the same skills and experience, have the same personal interests, are all the same age, and are the same in every possible way, do you think Company G would have a high level of employee engagement? I guess you could say, “it depends”. But let’s take it one step further. What if Company G operated in a country like Canada, United States, England, or any other highly multicultural country? Or what if Company G operated in any other country where there are 5 demographic groups (Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, Baby Boomer, Traditionalist) in their workforces? What if Company G served a market that was made up of customers who were between the ages of 18 and 100, possessed different levels of education, have a very broad range of personal income? The list goes on – the point is, engagement is dependent on a number of different factors and different factors impact engagement differently on an individual level, as well as a on a generational, geographic, industry-based, income or educational level.
The fact of the matter is, workplace diversity has a huge impact on employee engagement. Canadian top 5 bank, RBC, is well known for its principled stance on workplace diversity — “To win in your market, you need to hire your market.” Aside from the fact that diversity does drive employee engagement, it’s just smart business.
But when we talk about diversity, do we really know what it means? Among many other things, people typically attribute diversity to sex, religion, ethnicity, family status and age. What about things like difference in thought, personality, pathways to solving problems, life experiences and the list goes on. RBC defines it perfectly on their website. Inclusion comes into play when the work environment optimally enables each and every employee to perform at their best, regardless of their unique and individual difference.
So, if you put all of the above together, truly diverse and inclusive workplaces are in fact more successful organizations. If diversity and inclusion are based on the workplace enabling people to perform at their best, then what is employee engagement based on? You got it… the exact same thing. In fact, diverse and inclusive workplaces boosts employee engagement. You could even argue that the impact on employee engagement and diversity are exactly the same. This makes a lot of sense, and the research proves this.
The next time you are talking to your peers, your professional network, or your co-workers about the impact diversity and inclusion have on employee engagement, think about what I just shared. Employee engagement is a strategic business imperative, so it only makes sense to include diversity and inclusion in the conversation.
What should you do about it? For starters, you can attend my session at the upcoming 7th Annual Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2016 conference in Toronto (September 13-14). I’ll be leading a session titled, “Can You Hear Me Now? Good. Let’s Talk Diversity, Inclusion & Employee Engagement,” where I will be taking you on a journey through my own struggles growing up with a severe hearing disability and how my disability enabled me to work with and support many leading organizations to build truly diverse and inclusive workplaces. After that, you can return to your own workplace and think about how diversity and inclusion can factor into your own company’s engagement efforts.