Today’s business leaders face a myriad of challenges in what continues to be an unpredictable and complicated business environment. It is your job to grow the business, maximize profits, acquire new customers and retain your existing ones. You are also ultimately responsible for creating an inspiring culture, leading change initiatives and keeping your employees engaged.
Successful companies understand employee engagement is a powerful strategy for driving organizational improvement and business results. Research from Gallup and Towers Watson shows companies with highly engaged employees typically outperform their competitors in earnings per share (EPS) growth rate and other financial results. Unfortunately, recent surveys have reported that only a small number of employees are engaged in their jobs. The latest Ouch Point survey from Opinion Research Corporation found that 80 percent of respondents would consider leaving their employers if presented with a new opportunity and 25 percent are planning to leave once the job market improves. These figures are not surprising given the actions, including hiring freezes, pay cuts and layoffs many companies had to take in order to weather the economic downturn. Business leaders need to pay attention to the latest findings and put proactive plans in place to closely monitor and improve employee engagement levels in their organizations. Those who fail to do so face a strong possibility of losing some of the critical talent they need to ensure continued success.
Employees view engagement across five core dimensions, and your organization needs to focus on fostering these dimensions year-round to achieve optimal results.
Belonging: Engaged employees feel a strong connection to the company on multiple levels. They identify with the company’s core values and understand how their individual jobs support the overarching mission. If you have not yet articulated your company’s mission and values to your employees, this is a great place to start. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, offers a free vision framework tool on his website www.jimcollins.com to guide you through the process. Next, find tangible ways to incorporate the mission and values into company culture, processes and systems so they are constantly reinforced on a daily basis.
Inspiration: At the end of the day employees want to feel a sense of purpose and know that their efforts matter. To engage on this dimension employees have to take pride in what the company does and trust their leaders. Outline a compelling vision for the future, communicate it with passion, acknowledge any challenges or setbacks, ask employees for suggestions and involve them in driving positive change.
Understanding: Clear and timely communication is one of the most important drivers of employee engagement. Your employees need to have a solid understanding of company goals and the specific plan to achieve them. Leaders should provide frequent and transparent business updates and create an environment in which employees feel comfortable asking questions and providing input. At the individual level employees should receive meaningful feedback on their performance at regular intervals throughout the year. Use these opportunities to provide affirmation to your strong contributors and have candid discussions with employees who are falling short of expectations.
Support: Employees feel supported when they have strong relationships with their managers, positive interactions with colleagues and access to the resources they need. Leaders should evaluate both hard and soft skill sets when filling management positions, and they should provide training to help new managers succeed in their roles. Look for ways to provide systematic support for your employees in the form of eliminating unnecessary red tape, simplifying work processes and creating a culture of open communication and collaboration. Tools like the DISC assessment and Meyers-Briggs personality test can be very effective in helping to achieve the latter.
Appreciation: Employees need to know that their contributions are noticed and appreciated. The significance of sincere praise from direct managers and senior leaders is often underestimated but can be extremely meaningful to employees. Compensation is important and should be competitive, but many employees often rank other factors like career development and learning opportunities above pay in job satisfaction surveys. Get to know your individual employees and understand what each values. Then look for ways to show your appreciation in those specific areas.
How effectively is your organization delivering across the five dimensions of employee engagement? If you have not yet put mechanisms in place to measure and monitor engagement levels, take charge now by asking your employees for their candid feedback. Anonymous engagement surveys can provide visibility to help companies prioritize and focus their efforts on the areas that will resonate most with employees. A successful engagement strategy will take time and effort, but the benefits to your organization and bottom line will be well worth it.