Most Human Resource managers and business owners don’t need a study to tell them how many problems a disengaged workforce can cause.

Pieter de Klerk from JvR Consulting says that while many companies are enthusiastic about conducting regular employee engagement surveys and receiving the subsequent data, the value of this data  lies in its ability to change the way teams interact.

Recent engagement research indicates that a powerful factor was simply whether or not respondents reported doing most of their work on a team.

Those who did were more than twice as likely to be fully engaged as those who said they did most of their work alone

“Employee engagement is a moving target. There’s often a rush for business leaders to gain insights on the engagement levels of employees, but interventions often lose momentum a few months down the line. A better approach is to give managers a post-survey toolkit that helps them engage with staff more effectively on a daily  basis and focus on the team, and not just the individual,” says de Klerk.

The impact of globalisation
Globalisation, combined with enabling factors such as the availability of reliable internet and the ‘always – on’ mindset of businesses , has led to many employees either working from home or being in a different geographic location than their team members.

De Klerk says this shift in the marketplace has changed the way managers need to go about staying connected to their team members.

“To continue to create a sense of unity and cohesion, instant messaging apps and other digital tools are used to communicate. These musn’t replace face-to-face meetings. Even if you need to book a boardroom and set up video conferencing facilities, it is important for team members to have meetings where they see each other and connect on a more personal level,” says de Klerk.

Foster psychological safety and encourage constructive conflict
The concept of psychological safety, according to William A. Khan in his 1990 paper on personal engagement and disengagement at work, is “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.”

De Klerk says that trust issues within a team, the emotional intelligence of the team leader and cultural differences among staff can all impact employees’ willingness to give feedback and work towards a common goal.

“Many times an employee’s conditioning and cultural background, which has been formed many years before they became an employee, contribute to a mental model that restricts staff from constructively engaging with each other.To create a sense of empowerment and accountability within a team, the team leader needs emotional intelligence and the right communication skills,” says de Klerk.

When employee engagement is addressed from a team-based perspective, it can be improved.

​Besides taking a team-based approach, clearly defined measurables need to be determined for an employee engagement strategy to work and companies need to give leaders within the business the authority to implement the interventions that are needed.

“Employee engagement needs to be linked to clearly defined measurables such as a company or division’s financial performance or customer service. In this way, improvements in employee engagement can be aligned with a company’s goals. Lastly, people need to be given the authority to have constructive discussions and create the positive change that they envision for their teams,” concludes de Klerk.