Staff engagement remains the company buzzword of our times. Little wonder, high levels of employee engagement correlate strongly with high performance, low turnover, creativity, and increased profit.
In life sciences, many employees face pressures such as long hours, high-stress roles, and ever-changing regulatory compliance. Engagement helps them cope with these challenges. And given that employee engagement levels have been clearly tied to patient outcomes,
the difference between an engaged and disengaged life sciences employee can literally mean the difference between life and death.
However, despite the important benefits of having engaged employees, many life sciences companies still struggle to create the conditions for a more engaged workforce.
So how can your life sciences organisation increase engagement in its employees?
1. Understand the three levels of employee engagement. Engaged Employees:
Use their discretionary effort to do extra work unbidden. They are often full of ideas and passionate about the company’s success. Non-engaged.
These employees don’t actively hate their job, but they are unmotivated and put in no extra effort above what their position actively requires. Actively disengaged:
These employees hate their job, and often the company. They may even actively try to damage your business, by driving customers away through poor service, complaining about the company to clients, or encouraging other team members to share their toxic view of the company.
2. Use this information to maximise the success of your engagement efforts.
Actively disengaged employees are probably beyond your ability to ‘save’. You should try, certainly, making your expectations for improvement clear, but improvement is not made rapidly, you should remove those employees from your organisation before they cause more damage.
Non-engaged employees are where you can make the most difference, as they usually are the bulk of employees and have not yet moved to a stage of active disengagement. Your efforts are best directed here for maximum impact.
Your highly engaged employees don’t really need engagement creativities. However, a word of caution here: if you expend a lot of effort, training, and incentives on the non-engaged employees, you risk sending the message to your already engaged high performers that you get rewarded for being mediocre, rather than a high achiever. Therefore, coaching, extra training and incentives should be offered to highly engaged staff as well to avoid resentment and improve engagement further.
3. Find out what the employees think.
Now that you know where to direct your efforts, it’s time to gather information from the subject pool. Anonymous surveys, performance reviews, and consultants are the most effective way to assess current levels of employee engagement, as well as ideas on what might be causing any problems, and things that are going well.
However, be wary of using a general survey to test employee engagement, as it needs to genuinely reflect both the life sciences organisation in question and what is possible to be changed.
When asking your life sciences professionals about their engagement levels, be sure to include versions of these critical questions:
- Are you provided with the training and equipment to do your job well?
- What is interfering with your ability to do your job well?
- Do you know exactly what is expected of you in this role?
- Are there any training opportunities that would assist you in doing your job?
- Do you feel the company has a positive company culture?
- Do you enjoy coming to work most of the time? And if not, why not?
4. Understand that your managers are the biggest key to employee engagement.
You know the expression ‘people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’? Well, the same idea holds true for engagement: managers are primarily responsible for the engagement of the employees in their team.
So use this to your advantage. Hire great managers, pour training into the ones you have, and say goodbye to those managers who continue to damage employee engagement levels. After exhaustive research, Gallup suggests coaching your managers to build engagement plans with their team, and hold them accountable for their employees’ engagement levels.
5. Don’t promise that which is unlikely to happen.
It is dangerously easy to get swept up in the engagement drive and promise unengaged employees things that might not occur, such as new bonus schemes, fantastic training and development opportunities, and other perks.
Be sure to get any of these initiatives costed and signed off before they are mentioned, or your initial surge of engagement will be replaced by a dramatic drop when the promise is not fulfilled.
6. Make sure the vision is both clear and individually targeted.
Every employee should know three things:
The company story.
The big company goal.
How they (the employee) fit into that goal as an individual.
When people understand how their role matters in the wider company story, and manage to identify in some way with the company’s message and values, they feel a sense of belonging and even ownership that generates high levels of engagement.
7. Life Sciences asks a lot of people. It’s important that you recognise their efforts.
In life sciences, there’s a considerable amount of scope to motivate employees on a value-based level. After all, most people joined the field to help people! A successful company never forgets to celebrate the wins and thank their employees, reminding them of the importance of what they do.
Great ways of showing that you value employees is for the CEO to speak to employees regularly, acknowledge high achievers, and have managers sharing information with their team members.
8. Keep going.
Many companies have all the right intentions and begin their engagement revolution with a bang, for it to only peter out with a whimper after a few months.
A key, senior person should be in charge of monitoring engagement levels by doing ongoing surveys, chatting with employees, and running thorough exit interviews. And as previously mentioned, managers should be held accountable for engagement levels in their team. (But only after being given sufficient training and incentives themselves, lest you replace an engaged manager with a disgruntled one!)
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