HR’s Role in Employee Engagement by Barbara Mitchell, Managing Partner, The Mitchell Group Good news: according to the latest Gallup survey at the end of 2014, employee engagement in the US is at its highest level since 2000. Here’s what they found: 31.5% of employees are engaged 51% are not engaged 17.5% are actively disengaged It is estimated that disengaged workers cost the US economy approximately $300 billion in lost productivity annually. Employee engagement corresponds to the level of the staff members’ commitment and connection to the organization they support. High levels of engagement translate to increases in customer satisfaction, employee retention and productivity. Human Resources (HR) plays a significant role in engaging employees. HR professionals serve as teachers and mentors for other leaders in the organization to ensure that leaders continue to learn and grow in their roles. Employees respond favorably when their leaders are learning and when they show vulnerability in the workplace. HR professionals can influence leaders to communicate often with employees—especially when they share stories of their path to leadership and the lessons learned along the way. HR professionals know that one of the things that fuels employee engagement is when people are proud of where they work. HR professionals encourage leaders and managers to be good listeners. One way organizations can gauge whether or not their employees are engaged is by doing employee surveys or focus groups to ask questions about how employees are feeling about the work, the organization, and its leadership. Leaders and managers who listen carefully to their employees in meetings or in one-on-one situations have a much better chance of having engaged employees than those who aren’t good listeners. HR professionals know that one of the things that fuels employee engagement is when people are proud of where they work. Being a good corporate citizen in whatever community the organization is in is hugely impactful on employee engagement. This doesn’t mean you have to be a household name—just that you actively support your local community or pick a charity to sponsor—employees love getting behind a good cause and making a difference. One way to build engagement and also give back to the community is to volunteer for causes that matter to your employees. Some organizations ask employees to nominate a favorite charity and select that group to sponsor for a year. Others select organizations where not only are you giving back to the community but you are building teams, such as volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. The organization makes a donation to the organization and then employees work on a build site for a day, and in the process, get to know each other while supporting a good cause. Of course, HR professionals know that to have engaged workers, you have to pay them fairly so it is important to participate in salary and benefits surveys in your market to be sure you are competitive. Pay and benefits are only part of what is now called “Total Rewards Programs” which, in addition to pay and benefits, also include recognition programs and flexible work schedules. Employees want to be recognized for the good work they do and, now more than ever, having flexible work arrangements have a hugely positive impact. HR professionals know that having the right policies in place to reward employees while allowing them to have some sort of control over their schedule results in higher engagement. All this being said, Human Resources can’t do it alone—company leadership must be on board with working to maximize employee engagement. It’s a team effort! Training to become a Human Resource Manager is more important than ever as the field becomes more complex. Check out online opportunities or HR training courses to enhance your skill set. Barbara Mitchell, Managing Partner of The Mitchell Group, is co-author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential HR Handbook.