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Leading the Engaged Enterprise 

By Employee Engagement, we mean the extent to which the employees of an organisation are motivated about their work, loyal to their organisation and are passionate about what they do. Usually, people tend to mistake the idea of employee engagement with job satisfaction. However, these 2 concepts are quite different from one another. Employee satisfaction indicates the level of happiness or contentment experienced by the employees, whereas employee engagement is the degree of one's involvement in the work. By making changes and modifications in the level of satisfaction will not necessarily lead to increased performance. This is because of how one view happiness and satisfaction is subjective. In the context of employee engagement, making the right changes would have an impact on job performance as well as lead to more growth and better decision making.

There are many barriers to employee engagement. Some of them are -

  1. Poor Management - Incompetent managers may lead to the employees feeling lost and disengaged. If the management neglects the welfare of the employee, is incapable of being decisive or makes the employee feel underappreciated, it can lead to the employee losing faith in the management and ultimately, walking out.
  2. Lack of Work-Life Balance - Organisations that expect their workers to put work above personal needs is a huge failure in their system. Stressing out employees by overloading them with work, at the cost of their personal life is a sure-shot way of driving out even the best employees. What is equally concerning is the willingness of some individuals under such stressful conditions due to their poor economic conditions, need to support their families and fear of getting fired.
  3. Toxic Work Environment - Bullying or sexual harassment of employees by others at work is a common but worrisome barrier. Moreover, if correct and timely action is not taken against the perpetrators, it will lead to disengagement towards the work by the victim. This is due to the simple explanation that the victim of the harassment would be worried about their problem at the workplace rather than focusing on their tasks.
  4. Lack of Social Bonding at Work - This is pretty self-explanatory. Human beings are social beings and when there are feelings of loneliness and isolation due to lack of social friendships and bonds, it will directly affect their motivation to come to work in the first place and stay involved and committed to their work.
  5. Inability to Align Personal Objectives with the Objectives of the Organization - If the goals of the organization do not align with the personal goals of the employee, needless to say, that employee will not fit into the structure of the said organization. The employee will be unable to be passionate about their work and think about the welfare of their organization.
  6. No Proper Following Up - Another common problem with modern-day workplaces is, though there may be provisions and ideas in place for building engagement among employees, due to lack of leadership these ideas may permanently remain ideas only. Since there is nobody who takes the initiative to execute these changes, there is no proper following up on the concerns of the employees and hence, the problems never get resolved and continue to persist within the organization.

A common barrier at not just my place of work but many organizations is the inability to strike a proper work-life balance. Almost all jobs are demanding by nature, be it professional or personal. Sacrificing one's personal responsibilities and demands for one's work and expecting it all the time will lead to a general sense of dissatisfaction among the employees. As a consequence, a fall in work performance due to fall in engagement levels will occur. As per recent trends, we find more women and single parents as part of the workforce. It is unfair to, for instance, make them choose between time with their children and work. This lack of structure, further adds to their discontentment. This, however, does not imply that looking after one's children is the only responsibility at home. There are other commitments such as care for the parents and elderly, self-care, leisure, care for one's mental health and indulging in activities that aid in personal development, which also require attention. Companies need to re-think their attitude of work comes before everything.

Imagine a scenario where an individual is the only child and only earning member of the household. They have 2 old parents at home who also require attention, apart from their demanding jobs. They are given huge amounts of work, maybe even asked to work overtime which isn't fair considering they have to check up on their parents too. Quitting may not be an option as they need money to buy medical supplies and other everyday essentials. So it is a no brainer that they would give in to the pressure and not be able to put 100% into their work as feelings of dissatisfaction and stress will arise, ultimately leading them to probably look for better work opportunities elsewhere. This, however, isn't just the loss of the employee, it is a loss for the organisation as well as they had to let go of an employee who could have been a valuable asset in future.

So, how do we tackle this problem? For starters, proper allocation of responsibilities and delegation of duties is a must, so that employees do not feel overworked. Introduce the idea of job sharing so that timely help is provided to employees and the work can be completed as a joint effort. Encouraging the idea of part-time work, i.e. recognising that some employees though valuable, may not be able to devote all of their time to the organization and its work, hence providing them with the option of part-time work or even work from home for that matter, as it will better equip them to deal with responsibilities at work as well as home.

Employee Engagement is not only about fun activities and parties, as there is no substitute for fulfilling work experience. Listening to the concerns of the employees through a one on one session or by conducting surveys at the workplace, it would be easier to get to the root cause of all the problems and tackle them one by one. Encourage the employees to provide feedback without the fear of getting penalized for being honest. Also, keeping in mind the recent trends involving advocating for mental health concerns, proper resources concerning the preservation of the mental health of the employees should be provided at the workplace. These small steps go a long way in instilling a sense of security among the employees. They feel valued and cared for, in return strengthening their commitment with the organization. By ensuring that the barriers to employee engagement are kept at check at one's place of work, it will not only foster a sense of contentment and security among the employees but will also lead to higher rates of employee retention, making it a win-win for all involved parties.

Reference for Employee Engagement Barriers

Beauregard, T. A., & Henry, L. C. (2009). Making the link between work-life balance practices and organizational performance. Human resource management review19(1), 9-22.

Bin, A. S. (2015). The relationship between job satisfaction, job performance and employee engagement: An explorative study. Issues in Business Management and Economics4(1), 1-8.

Markos, S., & Sridevi, M. S. (2010). Employee engagement: The key to improving performance. International journal of business and management5(12), 89.

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