There are rumblings of the economy turning a corner. Favorable numbers are coming in from a varied group of indicators and people seem to be a bit more positive. With this improvement, companies will feel encouraged to begin hiring again soon. All good news, right? Well…that depends on how your current employees feel about working in your company. More companies hiring means greater competition to obtain/retain top talent. With the unemployment rate still hovering around 10% as a national average, the talent pool is loaded with some incredible people who are more than ready to prove themselves.

For many companies, the biggest expense that’s going to shred their bottom line through 2011 and into 2012 is turnover. There are numerous studies from the past year or so citing 80% of people don’t like their current jobs. Many leaders have allowed the Great Recession to groom their organization into one of a survivor and nothing more. Like a winded boxer hanging on the ropes until the bell rings, they have been waiting to hear the bell of relief in the economy. If you or your organization has reached this point, what have you been doing to support and care for the staff who have weathered this challenge with you?

If you have viewed and treated them as tools and a means to do your bidding to keep your business viable, then you may be in for a rude awakening as hiring increases. Employee Engagement is more than getting people to do what is necessary for the business. It is showing them that you respect who they are and appreciate what they do. You treat them with as much excitement after 6 months as you did during the onboarding process. If not, you’re going to burn through money like the finest latrine stationery.

Don’t start chewing your nails just yet. There always time to begin an Employee Engagement initiative. Some folks may still leave (especially if they feel completely jaded), but that’s no excuse to avoid starting something right now. You don’t have to spend money to get the ball rolling. Employee Engagement is as much about defining culture as it is interacting with those in your company. Culture is driven by language. What words do you want to use to communicate appreciation and gratitude? What would you want to hear if you were in their place?

How you manage this shift in culture depends on the size and structure of your organization. Whatever the case, make sure it’s personal. In other words, don’t send out a mass email talking about how grateful you are and leave it at that. Face to face is always the best. If your organization is large, reach out to those the next level or two away…personally. Encourage them to do the same and it will eventually permeate the organization. THEN send out the email and continually follow up.

Most people avoid Employee Engagement because there is a false assumption it will turn into a time vacuum. People don’t want you fawning over them 24/7/365. They want authentic, genuine leaders who seem just as human as they are to show relevant acts of appreciation on a consistent and regular basis. Start doing something today. Your budget and, more importantly, your employees will thank you for it.

What are some things you have seen or implemented that fosters great Employee Engagement?

  • William,
    We were just discussing this very topic during our presentation this morning – employers also need to consider that employees now have the ability to position themselves as leaders in their own niche across social media. Top talent is easier than ever to find – smart companies will be compensating their best people via strong employee engagement as well as through financial incentives – or risk losing them far more quickly than they may have anticipated.

    2011 is going to be an extremely interesting year for leadership.


  • So true Heather. The financial incentive is usually the first “go to” for most employers for talent retention, but it can’t be the holy grail for them. There must be an emotional connection for people to stay with an organization. Without that, that talent goes to a potential competitor.

    2011 will definitely demand more from leadership.

    Thanks for your perspective!

  • Right on, brother. And although no one likes to work for jerks, A-players will only jump if they have viable opportunities to jump to, or they get the entrepreneurial bug.

    Employers who embrace the integrated work/life world and allow employees to dial up and down roles and responsibilities, as long as it makes business sense for the business, will have a better chance at improving retention.

  • Great point Kevin. It’s very easy to become “process blind” so that other options to achieve the end result don’t even seem like a possibility. Thanks for your input!


  • Thanks, William, for your insightful post. I just saw an article about employee dissatisfaction with their jobs a few weeks ago. According to the study from Right Management, 84% of employees are dissatisfied in their jobs and plan to look for a new one in 2011. Your post is very timely!

    I think you are right on point about emphasizing personal relationships and using them to counteract the pull to find a new position. It all should start and end with the relationship between the manager and employee. It takes work, but it is certainly worth it in the end; it’s good for the company’s bottom and top lines.

    Best regards,

    Chrissann Ruehle

  • You’re so right Chrissann. Money plays a role in talent retention, but how person feels treated by an employer has massive influence. There has to be a well maintained balance between appropriate compensation and relational dynamics with employees. Thanks for contributing!