In English we call it employee engagement. Italy has not yet come up with its own term, but it is essentially a company’s ability to boost its reputation in the eyes of its employees by creating a positive working environment for them. This has – at least, in theory – two immediate effects: employees will be more motivated and, at the same time, will speak highly of the company outside of working hours.
It all makes sense so far. But these companies need to be careful their campaign does not have the opposite, devastating effect: disengagement. This is when employees – disappointed by their own bosses, by their working conditions or by company dynamics – feel left out, cannot identify with the brand and even share their negative perception to outside of the business.
The processes have been studied in detail by Alessandra Mazei, lecturer at Milan’s IULM University and expert in business communications. In her book, Engagement e disengagement dei collaboratori (Employee Engagement and Disengagement, published by Franco Angeli, 2018) Mazzei explains the key principles for ensuring that an employee’s involvement in a company is positive. She also provides a snapshot for the way things currently are in Italy.
The checklist for achieving engagement is a long one but, above all, the employer must avoid underestimating the effects of poor staff management.
How can you help an employee to become actively involved in a company? firstly with relationship management and then by establishing company procedures that instil equality and transparency and show appreciation for human resources. This loosely translates as: creating a frank dialogue with employees, establishing mutual respect, having clear company dynamics that involve staff and appreciating work (especially work done well). These conditions make it easier for employees to engage with and feel like part of the company, which will guarantee benefits to the company from outside, too.
But, whether absent entirely or handled badly, these same practices can lead to disastrous effects and have employees hating their bosses, inciting negativity among colleagues, the competition or clients and even discouraging others from using the brand.
Mazzei believes that, in Italy, not enough attention is given to the topic leading to insufficient levels of engagement. Research shows that the situation is worse in companies adopting cost-cutting strategies, companies operating only nationally and unlisted companies. But it is not only multinational corporations that can establish good relationships with their employees. The checklist may be long, but in essence it is always the same: be aware of the issue and do not underestimate the risks of poor staff management.