Sequent: Why business owners need engaged employees to maximize potential

Many companies talk about the need for employee engagement, but few are taking the necessary steps to engage their workforce.

“While it’s a commonly used term, it’s not common practice. For example, 75 percent of leaders have no engagement strategy, yet 90 percent consider engagement to be a critical component of a company’s success,” says Beth Thomas, executive vice president and managing director of Consulting Services at Sequent.

“Right now, 70 percent of employees are disengaged at work, and it’s costing companies over $300 billion in lost productivity, turnover and diminished business success. Based on statistics, you would think that companies would view this as a critical initiative,” says Thomas.

Smart Business spoke with Thomas, author of “Powered by Happy: How to Get and Stay Happy at Work,” about how to boost employee engagement.

Why have companies been slow to address engagement?

There are several reasons. Some companies believe customer satisfaction is engagement — it’s not. You can have happy, disengaged employees who are genetically happy or pleased with the company, but are not engaged in their work or in the right role.

Surveys will address items like wages, benefits and the company café, but that doesn’t get into the emotional connection to work and employees’ desire to use discretionary effort to be the best performers they can be.

Sometimes companies conduct surveys and do nothing with the results, which creates even more disengagement.

What is the process of engaging employees?

We utilize a nine-step process:

  • Create a vision. What do you want to achieve? What’s the value proposition?
  • Determine the metrics of success. Use benchmarks and create performance goals needed to improve engagement, which will also build customer loyalty and your bottom line.
  • Align expectations. Once you have a vision and decided how to measure success, develop an employee engagement survey designed to get the information needed to improve engagement.
  • Execute the survey. We conduct an educational webinar first, so employees know why the survey is being done and their role in making it a success.
  • Create an action plan based on the survey results. The plan should prioritize tasks and assign ownership and timing to each milestone. Communicate the survey results and how they are being used.
  • Establish a team of influencers. This group will organize activities — based on survey results — to help achieve and sustain a higher level of engagement.
  • Develop leaders and frontline managers. They need to understand how to impact the company culture and employees every day. Many managers think they are prepared to coach and lead engagement, but they really aren’t.
  • Evaluate if course correction is needed. Training or action plan activities may need to be modified to ensure you’re set up for a successful journey toward engagement, rather than a pit stop.
  • Ensure sustainability. Creating that initial engagement is easier than sustaining or improving engagement. We have an engagement application that provides managers with a support network of tips, tricks and hints on how to continually drive engagement. You have to create engagement as a habit; it occurs naturally because of the way you manage people.

What mistakes do companies make when implementing engagement strategies?

One is rewarding performance without behaviors. Someone might be a great producer, but have a bad attitude. Knowing that they have a bad attitude and rewarding them based on sheer numbers or performance is a mistake.

The management and leadership team also has to believe and drive the engagement process; it’s not enough just to say it’s an important initiative.

The benefits of engagement are so great that more companies should make it an emphasis. Engaged employees generate 40 percent more revenue than disengaged ones and are 87 percent less likely to leave. So being able to recruit, retain and benefit from engaged employees will impact your bottom line and the success of your company.

Beth Thomas is executive vice president and managing director of Consulting Services at Sequent. Reach her at (614) 839-4088 or [email protected].

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