Employee Engagement at Ithaca College

Employee engagement is the driving force of performance outcomes.  As quoted by Gallup, “In the best organizations, engagement is more than a human resources initiative – it is a strategic foundation for the way they do business.”  Employee recognition is a critical component of engagement. Aligning meaningful employee recognition with an institution’s core values can help managers be more effective through the modeling and reinforcement of expected cultural behaviors.

At Ithaca College, it is our intention to create a culture of engagement and employee recognition with the hope of providing and sustaining the four pillars of engagement[1] – recognition, feedback, communication and meaning – for and with employees; positively effecting not only the internal operations of the organization, but all the arenas in which the College operates.

The Society for Human Resource Management or SHRM, the world’s largest professional association for HR practitioners, breaks employee engagement into three simple categories ~ engaged, non-engaged & disengaged.

  • An engaged employee works with passion and feels a profound connection to their company.  They drive innovation and move the organization forward.  
  • A non-engaged employee is essentially “checked out.”  They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time – but not energy or passion – into their work.  
  • A disengaged employee isn’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness.  Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish. [2]

Just as engaged employees drive innovation and positively affect the overall climate of an organization, disengaged employees can actively bog down key processes – negatively impacting the business of an organization. Employee recognition is one of the most effective and affordable ways to reduce turnover, curb absenteeism, increase productivity, and keep employees engaged while at work. Gallup research shows that engaged employees are more productive and profitable than less engaged employees.[3] They also create stronger customer relationships, and stay longer with an organization.

The engagement process is a dynamic game of give and take.  Organizations must work to engage the employee, who in turn has a choice about the level of engagement to offer the employer: Each reinforces the other.  Likewise, there are several elements necessary for successful employee engagement.  (adapted from OSHA.Gov)[4]

All employees:

  1. Need to know what is expected of them (ie: clear job description)
  2. Benefit from having a mentor/friend to show them the ropes (ie: part of an effective onboarding process)
  3. Need the right tools/equipment to be successful at their job (ie: computers/etc.)
  4. Need to have open communication with direct supervisor(s) and access to upper management
  5. Need to know how they are progressing at their jobs and that his/her presence is valuable (ie: frequent feedback through face/face conversations with supervisors and departmental and organization–wide recognition)
  6. Need to know/or be given the opportunity to explore how their work connects to the mission/vision of the organization
  7. Need to know that their opinion counts
  8. Need to know there are opportunities to work and grow at the organization

[1] http://www.shrm.org/Research/Articles/Articles/Documents/07MarResearchQuarterly.pdf
http://www.engageforsuccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/file52215.pdf (Macleod/Clarke 2009)
[4] https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy10/sh-20835-10/employee_engagement.pdf

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