“Employee engagement” is a key concept these days, and while I will explore its origins and modern interpretations in my upcoming webinar, companies have to focus on literally engaging people on a personal level today just as you would “engage” someone in conversation.
Our research of nearly 5,000 workers worldwide showed that while one out of three people are engaged, less than half the time they are working, one out of two are actively or passively looking for their next job. Alarming, isn’t it?
So to increase engagement and prevent exodus, every professional should ask does their company have the following four characteristics:
1. Vision and values. Establishing the mission is critical to employee engagement and productivity today, not just serving a valued customer, but corporate social responsibility issues of treating the workforce with respect and engaging with ethical suppliers and business partners. This is increasingly true as many organizations specifically take on philanthropic causes as an outcome of the business plan — think Starbucks’ coffee farmers and Tom’s shoes and eyeglasses going to underprivileged children.This is true for both younger and older generations who seek a greater meaning in their work lives. And even if a company can’t find a noble cause to follow, creating a culture of teamwork and recognition of colleagues can be the value people find in their daily work.
2. Transparency and trust. With the advent of social media and public forums such as LinkedIn and other recruiting networks, where anyone and everyone can find out who works for a company and what it is like inside the firm, companies have to be more proactive than ever in sharing information on how business is going, challenges they face, and how they are coming together as a team to solve them. The diversity in the workplace means people have less and less tolerance for the old top-down “do what I say and not what I do” management styles and are not motivated by heavy-handed policies and procedures in an age where agility and flexibility rule the markets.
3. Communication and collaboration. New technologies have allowed more and more people the flexibility to work remotely, whether in a home office, on the road, or after hours, but they also allow people to avoid inter-personal conversations and discussions where ideas are generated and issues are addressed. Everyone has a story of how a single email has derail an entire day when a careless executive declares a new initiative or kills off another without giving people context or consideration of the decision. Leaders have to be thoughtful about not only what they are saying but how they are coming across or workers can easily tune out and turn off.
4. Presentation and promotion. Offering workers the opportunities to present at internal client review meetings as subject matter experts and attend conferences for professional development are critical for establishing relationships, external brand building, and on-going education, but too often just top management goes as travel costs increase and budgets are closely watched. In the absence of this, individuals “promote” themselves and their expertise to peers and colleagues through social media tools, which can serve to supplement those hierarchical job promotions that may not exist anymore (or people do not want for work life balance these days). Building personal brand equity inside and outside of a company has always been at the heart of a successful career and companies should think about how they can help their employees in this regard or they’ll seek other ways to do it on their own.
In the Power to the People survey referenced above, respondents across the board said “smarter management talent” was the number one challenge to their engagement and productivity in business. To my mind, it is these very basic organizational people principles and practices around engaging with people as individual human beings management has overlooked or abandoned that has resulted in the pervasive lack of employee “engagement.”
To hear more, register for my upcoming webinar, Engagement vs Productivity? Chicken or Egg? Which Can HR Really Impact? on Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
Author: Christa Manning
Christa Degnan Manning leads global workforce support research firm Eudemonia, a new type of systematic research and advisory firm focused on the organizational constructs, collaboration strategies, and workforce and talent management initiatives and solutions that support people in driving positive outcomes for businesses operating globally today.