In the last few years, the power dynamic between workers and employers has seen a subtle but important shift. Whereas once the onus was on staff to compete for the best jobs at top organisations, there's now more of a focus on businesses to vie for the best talent, and to do what they can to retain them by taking steps to keep them engaged.
Naturally, cultivating an engaged workforce is its own reward in many respects, as staff with a good work-life balance and satisfaction with what they do are much more likely to contribute to a positive professional environment; however, businesses are also starting to realise that a focus on employee engagement can also deliver significant bottom-line benefits.
Given the crucial role that a good learning and development strategy can play in fostering engagement, it's therefore vital that companies think carefully about how best to achieve this, and to invest in the right systems and resources accordingly - or else risk losing the competitive advantage to their rivals.
In 2011, Towers Watson conducted a study of 50 companies over a one-year period that revealed that those organisations with high rates of employee engagement experienced a 19 per cent increase in operating income, and a nearly 28 per cent jump in earnings per share. By contrast, those with low levels of engagement saw these figures drop by 32 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.
These findings offer a sharp illustration of the tangible impact that staff engagement can have on a company's financial performance. Put simply, an engaged employee is more likely to produce higher-quality work and to do so faster, with less prompting from management; they're also much likelier to take the initiative when proposing innovative new ideas or working on personal development goals, allowing them to bring even greater value and expertise to your organisation.
With a 2014 Gallup report suggesting that only 13 per cent of workers worldwide are engaged by their jobs, it's also something that most companies get wrong - meaning that investment in this area could give your business a real cutting edge.
As might be expected, employee engagement can be hard to quantify simply, as it has more to do with a person's attitude than their actions. However, that doesn't mean there aren't a few potential indicators to watch out for.
For example, businesses might wish to examine how much time staff spend working outside their normal hours - though naturally, it's important to distinguish whether this is due to enthusiasm or overwork. When workers are dedicating time to helping colleagues and collaborating on projects for which they may not receive direct credit, that's usually a promising sign.
In general, stronger communication and networking between staff from different teams and departments is a good indicator that workers are highly engaged with the overall company culture. It's also worth keeping track of how many members of staff are willing to get involved in ad hoc meetings and initiatives beyond their regularly scheduled work, as this is also an informative barometer.
For those wishing to improve their company's performance on key metrics such as these, a well-considered approach to learning and development can be instrumental.
Workers who feel they are stagnating by doing the same repetitive tasks each day with little hope of progression are very likely to become disengaged, meaning you risk losing their talent for good; by offering a training programme tailored to their interests and learning style, you can turn this around, giving them an opportunity to develop their skills, find new areas of interest and take on advanced responsibilities within your organisation.
Moreover, with the help of a learning management system (LMS), it's also much easier for bosses to measure this progress in a tangible way. An LMS will provide at-a-glance indicators of how each staff member is performing in their training, allowing you to identify and promote high achievers, and to identify those lagging behind early enough to give you an opportunity to re-engage them.
By investing the necessary time and resources into learning and development, your organisation will therefore be able to reap the significant business benefits that comes with an engaged workforce - as well as fostering a happier, more harmonious workplace.
Summary: Improving your company's learning and development strategy can lead to employee engagement gains that can have a direct impact on your bottom line.