Employee engagement is always important. Recently, as I was working with one of my clients to help them hire a salesperson, it became a top priority. They worried about finding someone that would stay for the long haul in their startup company. They wanted to make sure that I hired someone for them who would stick around.
My answer to this concern? While hiring is a critical component of a successful employee, it is only the beginning. Once the employee is hired, it’s up to the company leadership to keep that employee involved, productive and committed. The leaders need to stay focused on what we now call “employee engagement.”
I find it interesting and encouraging that this term, which was only coined in 1990, is now a common catchphrase. Employee engagement is defined as the emotional connection an employee feels toward their employment organization.
This level of connection has a direct impact on the amount of effort and energy the employee puts into their job. When they are fully engaged, they will go above and beyond what is asked of them, pay more attention and be more productive. This has a direct impact on the company’s bottom line.
Gallup has found that only 33% of US employees are engaged, a number that has not changed since 2001. This means 67% of employees are not committed to their organization, are not exceeding expectations and don’t feel any loyalty.
Many reports estimate the annual loss of revenue caused by the disengaged worker tops $500 BILLION every year.
Check out this blog for a great compilation of these types of startling stats. The stats show over and over the high percentage of employees who are not committed to staying with their job. It can cost 33% of the employee’s salary to replace them, one of the ramifications of low engagement and high turnover.
While this information is useful, think about the last time poor employee performance affected you. Have you had a bad experience with a waitress lately? Have you waited in line for a long time while the clerk behind the counter takes their time? Or have you had a recent complaint fall on deaf ears? If so, this was a direct result of an employee who was not connected to their company or their job.
The good news is that leaders and managers can improve the relationships with their employees in meaningful ways.
The quantity and quality of the interactions between the leader and the employee make the difference between an employee who feels connected and dedicated to the organization and one who is only there to collect a paycheck.
The responsibility for these interactions lies almost entirely with the employer, not the employee. According to a Towers Watson report, the number 3 element of employee retention was the level of trust the employee had in their senior leadership. Number 6 was their relationship with their supervisor or manager.
Employees look to their leaders to set the tone, establish procedures and create the most positive and rewarding environment possible. This is true of all of the levels of leadership, from supervisors all the way up to the CEO. As shown in the Towers Watson report, the manager and supervisor directly influence the employees’ desire to stay in the job or look for something else.
Here are three key points found across many different philosophies about how to create a positive environment.
Patrick Lencioni is a best-selling author and pioneering leader in management. He says “A job is bound to be miserable if it doesn’t involve measurement.” Constructive feedback and assessment can help an employee feel like a valuable member of the team, secure in their job.
The annual employee review has gotten an understandably bad rap as a dreaded, once a year exercise. The employer and employee sit down in what may or may not be a beneficial discussion of the employee’s performance.
There are several ways to improve this outdated method for feedback. For one thing, renaming it “Employee Progress Report” demonstrates a different and more positive approach. Focus on the achievements they’ve accomplished to show the employee that you appreciate them.
Phrase areas of concern in ways that point out how to improve to help them understand what they need to do. The same Tower Watson report shows that job security was the Number 4 area of concern for employees. Knowing that they are doing well can be very reassuring. And of course, if the employee is not doing well, they will not improve unless they are guided to improvement.
Offer training to develop and improve skills to make the employee feel more involved and committed to the company. Career advancement opportunities was the second most important factor in employee retention. This vote of confidence not only improves employee morale but their performance as well, a win-win for both sides.
Feeling like they are valued as a human being is a much more important factor to employees than many managers understand. No one likes to be treated like a number but it’s easy to ignore the human side of the staff when juggling multiple requests, needs and skill levels. Take the time to get to know your employees to help them feel like they matter. Everyone wants to feel like they matter.
Even taking a few minutes to ask how their day is going and taking the time to listen can make a difference. It may not be possible to get to know everyone, depending on the size of the staff. But the more each person feels cared about, the harder they work. The adage that people do business with people they know, like and trust applies to employees as well. They want to work for people who know who they are, like them and have proven to be trustworthy.
Work/life balance is important to almost everyone. Know what is important to your employees to allow a better understanding of what the organization can do to improve that. Perhaps it’s a flexible work day on occasion to allow for doctor’s appointments or school field trips. Perhaps it’s knowing that a simple thank you makes a big difference to that employee. Or perhaps seeing a clear path to advancement is important to that employee. These don’t have to be expensive accommodations but they show that the employer cares.
Management Commitment to Employee Engagement
One thing that is clear from all the research. The leaders and managers have to be committed to creating a consistent culture of employee engagement. This means the managers need to be trained on effective listening skills, given the best tools to help them evaluate performance and permission to develop and promote their people.
Sadly, many managers are promoted for many wrong reasons and are not often equipped to be effective and motivational leaders. The decision to support the leadership team in the same way the other employees are supported is critical to any employee engagement undertaking.
This means the leaders at the top have to commit to listening to their managers regularly. Consistently offering feedback and encouragement, along with training and development opportunities, ensure their success.
While the cost of all this may seem high, consider the well-documented cost of ignoring the need to keep employees feeling connected and committed to their jobs. You can decide whether to invest in your greatest asset – your people – or ignore them at your peril.
For information on how to keep your employees engaged, email or call me for a free strategy session today!