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As government contractors, our success with an agency’s program is measured by a variety of performance metrics, depending on the program and its mission. 

While oftentimes not explicitly identified in government contract performance metrics, employee engagement, or the level of an employee’s commitment to and connection with an organization, has gained increasing recognition in recent years as key to productivity, customer satisfaction, and a positive organizational reputation.

Even more importantly for contractors like Maximus, the reputation of our clients — government agencies — is driven by the attitudes and competencies of our employees. Without high levels of employee engagement, we risk faltering at meeting the needs of the citizens our clients serve — greatly impacting their feelings of trust about the agency and the government.

The quantitative key performance indicators of strong employee engagement — retention / attrition, and tenure — are relatively straightforward to capture and track. However, while providing a global view of organization performance, these metrics don’t give a meaningful view of employee engagement at the individual level.

Employee surveys and related tools can track “net promoter scores” — the degree to which an employee would recommend their company to friends or family — and provide some insight into individual-level engagement, but this metric still fails to truly capture the level of engagement an employee feels and their willingness to go above and beyond when needed to help their colleagues, employer, and client.

Actual employee engagement — the unquantifiable variables that determine how much an employee connects with and is committed to their job and the company mission — is harder to track with traditional data sources and metrics. This qualitative picture of organizational and individual employee engagement is far more informed by factors that relate to both value and values.

By “value,” I mean the amount of value an individual finds in the resources and activities the organization provides to its employees (a good indicator of the utility of those resources, or the robustness of those activities).

By “values” I mean the types of engagement activities that an individual finds most meaningful, because of the extent to which they align to that person’s core values. For example, some people find satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from public recognition and kudos, while others appreciate increased opportunities to learn new skills and expand their roles.

Although working virtually has challenged our traditional ways of tracking, responding to, and ensuring healthy employee engagement, it has never been more important to innovate in this area. Not only because it will help us to foster greater individual performance outcomes, but also because the level and quality of individual engagement has a direct relationship to organization-wide employee engagement and morale.

The cost of unengaged employees is real, and in addition to “just showing up” for work, an unengaged employee can actually undermine the efforts of those who are highly engaged and impact the quality of service being provided.  

I bring this up to further underscore the importance of employee engagement as part of our ongoing efforts to deliver better value to our clients, regardless of whether meeting employee engagement benchmarks are written into our contracts or not. The actual (dollars and cents) and reputational (to both contractors and the government agencies they represent) benefits of engaged employees can have a more meaningful impact than other improvement initiatives and creates a culture where employees are motivated to do their best for the client and the public they serve.

Take a look at our article in GOVERNING, “Better citizen service, more effective citizen engagement centers require a holistic and intentional employee engagement strategy”, to read more about how to develop a robust employee engagement strategy.