Business leaders understand the value of employee engagement, yet many have been slow to implement plans within their organizations.
“It’s interesting that 75 percent of leaders have no engagement strategy, even though 90 percent say it has a positive impact on business success. So while they think it’s important, they’re not actively engaged in affecting change. I think they don’t fully understand the impact it can make on the bottom line,” says Beth Thomas, executive vice president and managing director of consulting services at Sequent.
She says employee engagement is about creating an environment where employees understand the company’s values and what is expected of them, and are committed and dedicated to their work.
“Employee engagement is probably the biggest reason why companies are successful. Engaged employees generate 40 percent more revenues than disengaged ones and are 87 percent less likely to leave an organization,” says Thomas.
Smart Business spoke with Thomas about ways to boost employee engagement and the impact it can have on an organization.
What can companies do to foster employee engagement?
There are five keys to creating conditions for thriving, engaged employees:
- Empowering employees. No one wants to be micro-managed; they want to feel that what they bring to the table is valued. They were hired for a reason — let them do that job.
- Sharing information. People get anxious and disconnected when there are a lot of closed-door leadership meetings. Create a connection by bringing employees into the growth of the company with quarterly or town hall meetings.
- Minimizing toxic behavior and negative feedback. Hire the right talent that will fit the culture and bring positivity. Then hold employees accountable to the values and expectations of the organization.
- Offering performance feedback. Everyone wants to know how he or she is doing, and it shouldn’t be just once a year. Empower them and let them know they’re in charge of their careers, and can move forward if they are motivated and dedicated.
- Appreciating employee value through reward and recognition. Have an employee of the month award and profile that person because people will want to emulate what they are doing. Make it very clear what is needed in order to be successful and profile those behaviors, characteristics and performance standards so everyone knows what is valued. That includes recognizing all the qualities that are valued; it doesn’t have to be based on the same performance. An employee might not be a high-powered salesperson bringing in six-figure deals every month, but might be the most positive person in the office and contributes to the organization’s culture.
Does employee engagement start with the hiring process?
Absolutely. When you are hiring people, it’s just as important to assess their ‘soft skills’ as their knowledge, skills and abilities. It’s more difficult to train people to be team players. Having the personality to go above and beyond to meet a customer’s needs or to be a trusted adviser is a soft skill that is largely innate and takes a lifetime to build. It’s important to evaluate those qualities to ensure they match the organization’s culture beyond the skills they bring.
Is it the workplace culture that promotes engagement?
Yes, it’s about the culture, but also all the employees and the leaders. It’s important for employees to ‘hang with the gang that gets it’ — those people at work who are successful — steal shamelessly and emulate what they do. Conversely, when employees hang with the people who are negative and contribute to toxic behavior, leadership sees them as being one of them, even if they’re not participating in those activities.
Engagement goes hand in hand with happiness. In a work context, happiness is about finding what in your career makes you happy. While it may sound trite, happiness leads to engagement in your work, which motivates you to give 110 percent or more discretionary effort. This is what contributes to business success, not only boosting your own career but at the same time increasing the company’s bottom line. Who wouldn’t want that?
Beth Thomas is an executive vice president, managing director of Consulting Services and author of “Powered By Happy” at Sequent. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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