Executives used to worry about whether their employees had their heads in the game because the commonly held theory was that employee focus created a competitive advantage. Now executives must win the minds, hearts and souls of their workers because recent research has shown that employees who are emotionally attached to their companies are more productive. Achieving that level of engagement requires a holistic management style.
According to Gallup, companies that are adept at engaging their employees are significantly outperforming companies that don’t engage their workers. In fact, the earnings per share growth rate of the top performing companies in a recent Gallup study was 2.6 times that of the companies that scored below average in engaging their employees.
“Engagement not only improves productivity, it reduces employee absenteeism and turnover,” says Hosetta Coleman, SPHR, Senior Vice President of human resources at Fifth Third Bank (Tampa Bay).
Smart Business spoke with Coleman about how to nurture employee engagement through a holistic management style.
How does work environment engender engagement?
To drive engagement, it’s important to create an inclusive environment; one that elicits employee feedback and ideas. When people feel like they have a voice, they will become more involved and they also feel valued. Here at Fifth Third Bank, we have a monthly session called ‘Bagels with Brian,’ where new and more tenured employees can participate in a question-and-answer session with President Brian Keenan. They have the opportunity to ask Brian questions in an open forum, and he gets the opportunity to share information about our growth plan and vision. We made adjustments to our on-thejob branch training format based upon feedback we received, and now our training is much more effective.
What other tools encourage employee involvement?
By giving employees a stake in the outcome, they are more likely to become involved with their work on a deeper level. Variable compensation plans that reward employees for business outcomes are highly effective tools, and they don’t have to be limited to sales staff. Consider offering new business referral bonuses to everyone because they engender ownership for results, and they also help employees see that their individual contribution matters. Referral bonuses are another effective tool because they not only help attract talent, but they also directly incentivize employees by offering them a role in furthering the company’s growth plan.
Here at Fifth Third Bank, our managers have a round-table discussion group that specifically focuses on work processes and ways to make our company more productive. We not only get great ideas during these sessions, but people feel like they have more control over their work, and when they have control, they think and act more like owners than employees.
How can CEOs measure their employees’ level of engagement?
Talk to them and learn their dreams and aspirations. Conducting employee engagement surveys through third parties, such as Gallup, allows executives to measure employee engagement levels and benchmark against other companies. Conducting spot climate surveys and eliciting feedback through online tools, such as Zoomerang, allows executives to keep their fingers on the pulse of the organization and initiate a continuous improvement process around employee engagement.
Are there other techniques for improving employee engagement?
Consider an employee action team that specifically focuses on driving engagement. Who better to make recommendations about how to drive employee engagement than the employees themselves? We have a group here at Fifth Third Bank called the Pride 53 Team, and they’ve made a number of recommendations that we’ve adopted. For example, they recommended that we encourage our employees to become involved in the community, so they feel connected externally, not just internally. When they represent the company in outside events, they feel a sense of pride and ownership about the company, and it makes them feel and act like entrepreneurs.
Also, begin the engagement process before employees are hired and carry it through to your on-boarding process and beyond. Our recruiters talk to prospective employees about what it’s like to work at Fifth Third Bank as part of our assessment process because we want to select employees who will be engaged by our culture. Brian Keenan speaks to each new hire group during orientation, and we have follow-up sessions at 30, 60 and 90 days, so they feel bonded with the organization. I think most of all, it’s important for executives to have talks and communication with employees that go beyond the financial results. To gain the hearts of employees, you have to show that you care about them as individuals, and you can’t do that unless you get to know them through conversation and by using a holistic management style.
HOSETTA COLEMAN, SPHR, is Senior Vice President of human resources at Fifth Third Bank (Tampa Bay). Reach her at (813) 306-2424 or Hosetta.email@example.com.