Friday, 30 November 2012 21:49

How to create an actively engaged work force

When employees understand where their company is headed and the role that they play in the process, they are naturally motivated to do a better job.

“Actively engaged employees become emotionally vested in an organization and are willing to go the extra mile to get their jobs done well,” says Mark Matuscak, President and CEO of Benefitdecisions, Inc. “Actively engaged employees thoroughly understand the strategic goals of the organization and where they fit into those goals.”

However, studies indicate that approximately 27 percent of employees are actively engaged with their employer, while 60 percent are ambivalent toward their jobs and 13 percent are actively disengaged in the workplace, Matuscak says.

Smart Business spoke with Matuscak about how to promote  employee engagement and the ensuing benefits of increasing the number of actively engaged employees.

What is employee engagement, and how does it differ from employee satisfaction?

Employee satisfaction is about whether people are happy to get up and go to work. Engagement goes well beyond that and addresses whether employees are aligned with the mission of the company and are living it. Employee engagement measures the willingness of an employee to proactively apply extra effort toward the goals and mission of the company. It measures the emotional commitment of an employee toward his or her employer.

Actively engaged employees become ambassadors of your brand and your mission.  They have the ability to transform the customers they interact with into your brand ambassadors.

How can companies measure employee engagement?

There are very sophisticated measuring tools, but there are also basic questions that companies can ask their employees on a periodic basis to determine their level of  engagement. Questions should include:

  • How valued do you feel?

  • Can you see the next step in your career here?

  • Do you believe in the company’s mission?

  • Do you see yourself staying here?

  • Would you recommend this company to your friends and family?

There are also certain characteristics of people at each engagement level that an organization can assess. For instance, those who are always willing to work past normal hours without having to be asked and without complaint are actively engaged. An ambivalent employee is one you have to ask to work late to get the job done and that person, begrudgingly, might be willing to do so. Actively disengaged employees watch the clock and are ready to punch out at 4:59 and 59 seconds.

As a manager, observing the actions and behaviors of your employees is also a powerful method to use in conjunction with employee surveys.

What are the drivers of employee engagement?

There are four key drivers for actively engaging employees: believing that the company has a purpose-driven mission and that it is working toward that mission; trusting in the company and the leadership; feeling valued; and having confidence in the company’s leadership while believing that they are leading with the company values toward the corporate mission.

It’s interesting to note that none of the studies on employee engagement show compensation as one of the top drivers of employee engagement; earning the emotional commitment of an employee is about much more than money.

How do you create a mission that will motivate your employees?

Creating a mission that will actively engage your employees and customers is essentially explaining why your company is in business. What is the intrinsic reason or belief that drives your organization? Most employees can easily answer what their company does and even how it does what it does, but answering why can be difficult.

The most powerful thing you can do for employees is to identify why you do what you do and clearly communicate it throughout the organization. You know you have done this well when you can ask any employee for the mission of the organization and you receive the same answer from each person. Your employees will know that they stand for something and that they have a purpose-driven career.

What are the returns on investing in employee engagement?

There exists a strong correlation between high levels of employee engagement and all of the traditional metrics associated with an organization — sales, service, quality, safety, retention, profit and shareholder returns. In organizations that have actively engaged employees, studies have shown that there can be as much as five times higher  total shareholder return over a five-year period than in companies with lower engagement. Studies also show faster revenue growth and nearly twice the customer loyalty.

At an individual level, actively engaged employees provide  better customer interactions, higher individual customer loyalty, and increased sales and productivity, and they report greater overall job satisfaction. This serves to  create a cycle that feeds on itself, to everybody’s benefit. High performance becomes contagious in the right environment. Such a culture attracts those who want to be actively engaged with their careers and tends to select  out those who are actively disengaged.

It is worth the investment in taking actions that make employees feel a valued part of an organization. Invest in them personally, invest in their career development and invest in their performance management. Make the effort to get to know them and recognize their contributions.

Maximizing employee engagement isn’t easy and it isn’t automatic, but the dividends it pays  are very much worth the investment.

Mark Matuscak is President and CEO of Benefitdecisions, Inc. Reach him at (312) 376-0431 or

Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by Benefitdecisions, Inc.

Published in Chicago

The economy is heating up across many sectors. While economic improvement provides many opportunities, companies are facing the increasing challenge of hiring and retaining employees.

“People are the driving force behind the success of every business,” says Scott Anderson, a senior audit manager at Sensiba San Filippo, LLP. “Business owners who understand the immense value of their people and take action to protect and motivate their employees can see tremendous effects on their bottom line.”

Smart Business spoke with Anderson about the difficulties employers face motivating their work force and how to gain a competitive edge in retaining the best employees.

Why is employee retention important to leading businesses?

People are the foundation of successful businesses, and most business owners, especially those who have lost top talent, would agree. While it may be difficult to put a price tag on the value of each employee, every employee’s impact shows up — for better or for worse — in the bottom line. Economists have estimated the cost of replacing an employee at $17,000 to $31,000. For employees making more than $60,000, the cost is $38,000 or more.

The effects of employee retention and loss will only become clearer as we move out of the recession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more employees are quitting jobs to take new positions. People generally hunkered down during the recession and put career goals on hold, but now some industries are showing significant movement already.

How does employee retention relate to risk?

Costs associated with hiring and training are just one impact of employee loss. An employee may have had access to how much customers were paying for services, or insight into trade secrets or key intellectual property. That information loss could cause significant damage if it goes to a competitor regardless of whether patents or nondisclosure agreements are in place. There is also reputational risk, as departed employees won’t censor themselves. Negative comments can spread fast regardless of whether they are true or not.

What are successful companies doing to motivate and retain employees?

Companies are finding new ways to keep top talent. Successful companies find a ‘recipe’ of benefits that makes employees feel the company can help them achieve their personal goals. For some, traditional motivators such as time off, health care benefits and flexibility of scheduling aren’t enough.

Small investments can have disproportionate effects on employees. Don’t underestimate the value of recognition. Creating a leadership  award and nominating employees for outside business achievement awards improve morale. Wellness programs and community involvement opportunities also differentiate a work environment and build camaraderie.

For others, motivating factors include taking on new work or having increased responsibility. Presenting opportunities for professional advancement and intellectual expansion are overlooked factors to employee retention. An employee should have little difficulty understanding his or her career achievement path. Beyond just talking about it, the path should be written down and communicated. If employees can see how their career will proceed in the next 10 years, their vision for the future will involve a long-term relationship.

Mentoring programs can also improve career development opportunities. Allow employees to select their own mentors who are not far above the employee’s current level. Having a mentor the employee connects with, who is two to three years further in their career track, makes it more likely that candid, meaningful conversations will take place.

How can a business cultivate a culture that leads to happy, motivated employees?

One of the most important factors in forging loyalty is eliminating uncertainty, as it is a driving force that makes people look elsewhere. Unable to visualize a long-term relationship with the company, employees grow insecure.

Communication is also critical. Business owners and company leaders can dispel fears with proactive communication about the company and employees’ roles. Many successful businesses share successes of the organization, emphasizing the connection between employee success and the company’s success.

For smaller businesses, simple face-to-face interaction goes a long way toward showing employees their effort is valued.

Are employees still motivated by performance-based compensation incentives?

Yes. However, there are some common pitfalls that can derail a well-intentioned incentive program. One of the common misperceptions is that an innovative plan is a complex plan. It is actually quite the opposite. The simpler the compensation plan the more likely that it will be effective. The rule of thumb is it takes a beer to discuss the plan and the details can be written down on a bar napkin.

The value of a performance-based compensation plan is directly related to its success. At least 20 percent of the compensation plan should be incentive based and should fit into a picture of the overall health of the business that the employee clearly understands. The progress toward receiving compensation must be communicated frequently. It should be automated, predictable and not dependent on complex spreadsheet calculations.

How can businesses evaluate their employee retention efforts?

Business owners should research how their compensation and other benefits stack up to the competition. If they are lacking, find a good partner who knows the ins and outs of employee motivation, incentives and retention. On the other hand, if business owners find that their plan is superior to the competition, don’t hesitate to tell employees about the benefits of working for your company. Show your employees that you’ve done your homework and highlight the opportunities and benefits provided by your organization.

Scott Anderson is a senior audit manager at Sensiba San Filippo, LLP. Reach him at (408) 286-7780 or

Insights Accounting is brought to you by Sensiba San Filippo

Published in Northern California
Thursday, 17 February 2011 15:24

From HR nightmare to competitive advantage

Misunderstandings. Conflicts. Even outright fights.

Today’s companies are becoming multigenerational battlefields, where baby boomers and millennials duke it out. Each generation features its own work style, learning methods, means of communication and reward system. As a result, too many businesses are finding a generationally diverse work force to be a liability.

But what happens when the baby boomers retire and walk away with the business’s corporate intelligence? They will leave behind a tech-savvy and entitled generation that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no.” Will that spell the end of your company?

It doesn’t have to. In fact, by embracing the strengths of each generation, savvy companies can transform age differences into a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

By following a clear plan, companies can not only be ready to handle generational differences but can make the most of each and every age group in the work force.

Give your top human resources executive a seat in the boardroom. People are a company’s most important asset. By making your HR executive part of the company’s leadership team, it ensures that work force planning and generational issues can be tied to the company’s strategic plan and mission. A seat at the table also keeps HR issues top-of-mind with the executive team, which is more important than ever as you face the generational divide.

Make succession planning a priority. Conduct a work force age analysis, which will identify coming knowledge gaps. For example, the average engineer is 55 years old. Does the company have a way to identify top young talent to replace these employees?

Understand what it takes to attract and motivate the younger work force. I fired my own daughter three times. Only then did I understand that the younger generation isn’t lazy. They’re simply more efficient and better multitaskers. As a result, they need to be constantly challenged. In that same vein, younger workers are not always recruited the same old ways. You are more likely to find your best new candidates via social media than at a traditional networking breakfast.

Develop programs for baby boomers to transfer their knowledge to the younger generations before they retire. Both formal and informal methods should be used to ensure corporate intelligence is not lost. Remember to address both hard and soft skills. The older generations have maturity and work force knowledge, plus they are highly networked and offer good communications skills. Partner them with the younger generation for knowledge transfer and mentorship. At the same time, boomers will benefit from learning new technology skills from their younger peers.

Reward and motivate each generation accordingly. Older employees still enjoy earning a trophy for their desk, a bigger office or a fancy title. Younger generations prefer a flexible schedule, a gift card to a restaurant or some extra time off for family. Millennials also tend to change jobs — frequently. Keep them engaged and interested by offering projects and other opportunities to learn and grow.

Harness the power of all four generations. Remember, each of the four work force generations has strengths to be leveraged. Discriminate against gray hair or body piercings at your own peril. The key is to find ways for employees of different generations to communicate, learn and work with one another. Appreciate and point out the benefits of their differences. That attitude — and the positive effects of learning from one another — will become part of your culture.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the founder of Gen InsYght, the CEO of Optimance Workforce Strategies, and the author of “Ties to Tattoos.” Her clients include La Quinta Hotels, Minyard Foods and The Chickasaw Nation, among many others. Contact her at (214) 802-2345 or at

Published in Dallas