Published: 9 Oct 2019
How much do employees genuinely care about what happens to the future of their organisation? Richard Walsh, Principal Assessor at NQA, explores.
One of the key factors to running a successful business is knowing how to engage employees. If the leaders of an organisation understand the level of passion and drive their workforce has for the job, they will already be a step ahead of the competition.
Leadership and management teams in any business should want employees to have pride in what they do and in the organisation they work for. Employees who work with purpose put forth their best efforts, and this can only benefit an organisation. It is important to look at every aspect of why people do the work they do and what drives them to do it.
You can’t expect your staff to become engaged if there is no clear and decisive message for them to embrace.
Ask yourself, just how much do your employees genuinely care what happens to your organisation’s future? Are they dedicated to helping it grow and be successful? Do they thrive on performance and reaching objectives?
An employee who is engaged will be motivated to work hard towards common goals that are in line with the vision of the business. They will be committed to the values their organisation represents.
Factors to consider in this area include the organisation and its leadership. You can’t expect your staff to become engaged if there is no clear and decisive message for them to embrace.
Before you start to measure their level of engagement, ask yourself the following:
- Are your organisation’s goals and visions clear and concise?
- Do your employees understand these goals?
- Is there a clear link between the employee’s work and the organisation’s goals?
- Can employees see how their work ultimately contributes to the success of the organisation?
- Is the leadership of the organisation present and able to motivate the workforce?
- Are managers equipped with the skills needed to lead a team to success?
This might sound like a difficult task, but those with management systems in place –particularly those such as ISO 9001 (Quality), ISO 14001 (Environmental) and ISO 45001 (Health and Safety) standards – already have the tools in place to achieve all of the above elements.
These management standards recognise the importance of employee engagement and encourage this in their various clauses. These include:
Section 5.1.1, ISO 9001:2015 (Leadership and Commitment) – engaging, directing and supporting employees from the top down, to contribute to the management system
Section 7.3, ISO 9001:2015 (Awareness) – encouraging familiarity with the management system, including any policies and objectives. Also, making employees aware of their own responsibilities, expressing how vital they are in the success of the business and the implications of not conforming to them.
Section 10.2, ISO 9001:2015 (Nonconformity and Corrective Action) – encouraging everyone in the organisation to be involved in the management system by having them report instances of when the management system is not working as it should.
How do we use these standards to engage our staff?
- Goals, targets and objectives
By clearly identifying and communicating your organisations’ goals, objectives and associated targets, employees will have the information allowing them to be able to understand the impact that their role has on the bigger picture and will be more likely to contribute to process improvement. This is why all of the aforementioned management systems require clear definition of the objectives and the associated plans that will enable them to be achieved.
- Training, awareness and competency
Not everyone will have the same levels of experience and training within your organisation. Research suggests that over three-quarters of employees would like employers to understand them as well as they do their customers. By reviewing and setting the competencies required across the business, you are one step closer to understanding the needs of your team, as well as improving their knowledge and skill to result in a better service and improved customer experience.
Communicating the overall aims of the organisation as enshrined within the various policy statements required is a key driver. Your staff should be one of the key “interested parties” as defined in Clause 4.2 in ISO 9001:2015, which requires that you define and understand their communication needs in terms of what, why, how and when. The standards require that communication is made in a way that is relevant and in a form that is easily understood by the recipient.
- Set an example
The well-worn phrase “walk the walk and not just talk the talk”, is particularly true in the revised standards and the leadership clause. It is important for leaders to set an example to everyone else within the organisation – good management and work behaviours in leaders will inspire better behaviours from others. Try to create a supportive environment by trusting the knowledge and experience of those you employ. If you want to know about a particular job, ask the person concerned – they will know best and be all too keen to tell you about it.
An important part of setting a good example is also remembering to admit when a mistake has been made. Employee’s value honesty, and so any dodging of accountability can be incredibly damaging. Being a good leader requires confidence in your own decisions and those of your team, with the ability to own them when they fail. The very best leaders take the blame, but share the credit.
- Gather and act on feedback received
Show your staff that you value them by listening to and acting upon their feedback. Meaningful feedback can cover anything from adjusting internal processes through to improving the customer experience, suggesting a workplace social event to proposing a new training course.
Remember, it’s not just employees who will benefit from these changes. By amending processes to make them more efficient, you ensure that the team becomes more productive. This enables you to utilise people better – making the business and individuals more efficient. Many of the recommendations made will fall under the practice of continual improvement, something that is considered imperative within all of the ISO management standards.
- Set expectations
Sometimes employees can become disheartened and lose interest if they find they don’t have a clear path to follow while carrying out their role. If roles are left undefined, work can often end up being duplicated by others and resources continuously wasted. This is often cited as a common cause of workplace stress.
Definition and communication of roles and responsibilities is another key requirement of the management standards. Keep staff engaged and ensure they remain fully productive by clearly stating expectations and setting goals that they can measure their own progress against.
- Share the success
Take the opportunity to share business successes with your employees, tell them how this success was achieved and highlight any part they played. Even if you don’t mention an individual specifically, if they can see how they contributed to the result it can bring about a sense of shared achievement and help to promote more collaboration going forward.
A fully engaged workforce will be the result of using your management system fully and in the right manner – so that all members of your organisation can give of their best each day, committed to your goals and values; motivated to contribute to organisational success and with an enhanced sense of their own wellbeing.