Employee Engagement

| Posted in Leadership Blog

According to a recent survey by Cornerstone OnDemand – since the economy went south, the workforce has become an employer’s market. With jobs still scarce, businesses do not have to worry much about employees looking elsewhere if they are not happy. As a result, many employers have created an environment in which employees do not feel they are valued by their organizations or its leaders…an almost unspoken agreement has emerged where employers feel they do not have to invest much in their workforce because employees are “lucky to have a job.”

When respondents were asked what they would like as a token of appreciation for staying at their companies following cutbacks:

  • 33% would like proper training for new duties and responsibilities
  • 33% would like a promotion or a new title
  • 32% would like verbal appreciation by their supervisor
  • 26% would like specific feedback on their work
  • 25% would like a discussion about their career path at the company, and
  • 24% would like company wide recognition of their accomplishments

All of these requests – come down to one issue – employee engagement! Supervisors are not providing feedback and businesses are not investing in development, and as a result, employees are becoming actively disengaged. And ultimately, will negatively impact the overall health and productivity of the organization.

Adam Miller, president and CEO of Cornerstone, says “American workers simply want to be empowered to do a good job and be recognized for their contributions.” And we agree – we see that 95% of employees are working hard to achieve results – even under less than desirable circumstances. The tide is beginning to change, however – a survey by Talent Career Management shows that a whopping 61% of employees intend to leave their current jobs in 2010 – which according to my modest calculations means that over 70% of the Nations’ total workforce is looking for a job!

Statistics and articles such as these have made me wonder what would happen if 61% of our employees actually left during the year? Sheer chaos is the phrase that comes to mind! We would be too busy starting over and recreating “wheels” to be very productive. And, let’s face it – companies of all sizes are paying the price when a majority of their employees feel that “no one has their interest at heart.”

Is it any wonder that we have seen a break down in employee engagement, resiliency, team spirit and loyalty over the past decade? I have one corporate client that suffered through 5 rounds of layoffs in just under 18 months – those remaining were devastated and then later furious to find out that the company had been sold to a competitor. This is of course, the tip of the iceberg –the USA has lost over 5 Million jobs in the past 2 years alone and we have been under near constant bombardment of fear-based messages in the media since 9/11 – which may help account for the worldwide lack of trust in all companies and their leaders that recent data is suggesting.

So what can we do to improve employee engagement? How can we become the “greener pastures” that our employees seek? First it’s important to look at why people choose to stay in their jobs.

According to Quint Studer of Hardwiring Excellence, people stay when:

1. They believe there is a purpose to their work
2. They feel their work is worthwhile
3. They are able to make a difference

Perhaps then, the silver lining of the economic crisis is that we have new information and we have an excellent opportunity to re-think the benefits of work, how we attract and retain and even on-board employees.

Organizational development experts suggest the 5 following steps to help improve engagement:

1. Start with the end in mind – decide on success measures and long term growth strategies for the development of all employees and make sure they match business goals. I love how Disney begins planning for the lifecycle of the employee from their first day on the job.
2. Create a strategic talent plan to make sure that employees are being developed with key competencies necessary for supporting current operations and future business strategies.
3. Find round pegs for round holes – use assessments and well defined selection processes to ensure quality hires and promotions.
4. Strengthen what you’ve got! Equip employees with the tools to excel then keep them engaged by finding ways to make them feel valued and worthwhile via opportunities for growth and learning.
5. Get back to value – communicate and promote the value and opportunities you are providing to employees and how they link back to improved performance and success.

Another way to promote employee engagement is to create a coaching culture –where managers partner and coach their employees, work groups and teams to unlock potential and promote loyalty. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article suggests that workplace coaching is the best way to develop a resilient workforce. Coaching is a collaborative process that promotes critical thinking and problem solving skills – it helps define and leverage talents, improve communication skills and overcome limited thinking and other barriers to success.

Finally, we suggest mentoring programs, stretch assignments, and job rotation, flex schedules, volunteer opportunities, lunch and learn series, awards and healthy lifestyle type programs to demonstrate a company’s willingness to invest in their people. After all, companies that invest in their workforce today will be even more agile once the economy turns around. Indeed, now is the time to develop employees and in doing so show them how much they are valued and appreciated.