Finally employee engagement is emerging as a key topic in business. People are the last lever that a business has to make a step changes in business results in an increasingly competitive market. Most companies’ business improvement programmes have focused on process re-engineering, restructuring and outsourcing. But these programmes are now at their limits. Leveraging your people, getting the best out of your people’s talents, skills and knowledge is how successful companies are now increasing their productivity and competitive advantage.
If you need to make a business case for investment in an employee engagement project here are four ideas to make it really convincing.

1. Direct impact about the bottom line

The relationship is now proven, the more engaged a person is in their work, the more they focus their discretionary effort on doing the best for customers and organisation. There are many studies with compelling facts on the impact of employee engagement on the bottom line. One of the most frequently quoted is Gallup’s study of 25 million people in 195 countries showing that only 13% of the people are highly engaged in their work. The Gallup report has compelling statistics around how engagement impacts on nine KPI’s from increased profitability (22%), productivity (21%), customer ratings (10%), and decreased quality issues (-41%), safety incidents (-48%), absenteeism (-37%) and resignations (-25%). Then there is the mother of all KPI’s, Earning per Share (EPS) where companies with highly engaged people have had 147% higher EPS than those with poor engagement.
Start your business case presentation with a bang by asking your senior managers “What is a 21% increase in productivity worth to this company?”. That will get their attention.

2. Facts tell and stories sell

A good business case doesn’t just tell the facts, but also sells through emotions. Tell a story, ideally one from your company where a group of engaged employees have had an impact on the business, compared to another similar team of less engaged employees. If that’s hard to find then borrow a story about companies with great engagement and how they achieve more, for example how JetBlue is really customer focused through linking employee engagement to Net Promoter Score.
Or try a visual approach during the presentation. Go around the room and count the heads and quickly do the maths. Label 14% are actively engaged, 63% not engaged and 24% actively disengaged (from Gallup or use your company’s data). Point out those few who are actively engaged people, tell they really putting extra effort into the company. Label the majority people as “just doing their job”, not engaged. Select a final sub-group from not engaged people that equals the percentage of actively disengaged. Tell them to imagine they are ready to leave at the first chance they get. Get the group to think about if all the people in the company were actively involved in their work what could be achieved.

3. No time to lose

The employee engagement business case is competing with other business imperatives, so create a sense of urgency. As the economy improves, the war for talent will heat up again. The risk is high, up to 65% higher, that disengaged employees will take the first opportunity to leave.
After a period of restructuring, cut-backs and events that have damaged company’s reputations (think about banks, VW, FIFA) people are questioning the organisations they work for and what they are investing their effort into, lowering their engagement. Now, more than ever, is the time to work on increasing engagement to retain people.

 4. Everyone else is doing it

This is not teenage peer pressure “everyone else is doing it, so we should too”, but when your competitors for your employees will be making their company more attractive, but you’re not, there is an even higher risk that your employees will jump to the competition. Two thirds of HR managers surveyed by Deliottes say they are updating their company’s engagement and retention strategies. You will have to keep up to compete in the labour market.

Employee engagement is re-emerging on the agenda of senior management, but it will not be easy to ensure it gets attention it deserves today’s busy workplace. Use these tips to create a compelling business case to sell your employee engagement initiative.