If you have read more than 25 blogs on leadership this year, I would venture a guess that you have come across at least one post that at a minimum referenced or was focused on employee engagement. Many of the posts, some of mine included, attempt to underscore the business case for improving engagement and how it should be a part of your long-term business strategy. No argument from me on any of these counts.
Engagement is great and necessary, but there are some things that are key drivers of which you should be aware. How these things are implemented will vary from organization to organization because of archetype and vision. Organizations that have quality engagement share certain things in common, otherwise engagement surveys would be ineffective in measuring accurate levels.
If you want to have an engagement centric culture within your organization, you will do well to pay attention to the following 10 traits.
- Purpose & Direction – If there is no clarity as to how what employees are contributing to an overall end game, they simply don’t see the point in doing their role. No matter the number of arguments that center around “you’re getting a paycheck, so do your job”, they will NOT be engaged. Get over that mentality and do what works, not what you think SHOULD work.
- Personal/Professional Development – If you want people to give a rip about what is important to the organization and what moves it forward, then do the same for them. People as being their own brand is on the rise and companies that don’t recognize and respond to this reality will be left with marginal talent. Even if the development isn’t directly connected to their current role, make it happen.
- Opportunity for Growth – Most people jump from one place to another because it’s the quickest way to move ahead in their career. Create that opportunity for them within your organization and they will be less likely to take your hard work of development and take it to your competitor. Consider lateral moves and let people stretch themselves. Have more than one career progression from as many positions as possible.
- Values – This is HUGELY important. People align themselves emotionally with values more than nearly anything else. Make sure your values are visible, publicly lived out and an integral part of your recruiting/onboarding process. People like to feel significant and if their work becomes an expression of their values that need is met. This is an opportunity to be authentic, not build a marketing message. Your marketing can come from your authenticity. Not the other way around.
- Fairness/Accountability – If fairness and accountability isn’t applied to leadership in the same manner as employees, you can just throw the idea of engagement out the window. Also, how people are promoted should be done fairly and not based on petty politics. If you create a culture where politics carry little to no weight, there will be less politics at play.
- Two-way communication – Make sure leadership is easily accessible. It doesn’t have to mean open office hours. Leverage social media to your advantage. Have a CEO twitter account. Have a CEO blog where people can comment. Whatever you do, make sure it’s a way where leadership communicates (good & bad) and people have a way to communicate in return. You will be surprised at some of the suggested solutions to challenges. Pleasantly surprised!
- Employee Involvement – This touches on the area of significance again. There isn’t much worse for an employee than to have a new policy or procedure imposed on them without them being a part of the process in developing that particular “solution”. Especially if it significantly impacts their ability to do their job well. They feel as if they’re set up to fail. Include employees in the process of sourcing solutions as much as possible.
- Stress & Workload – Stress has a disastrous affect on the physical, emotional and mental health of people. This means less productivity and increased absenteeism. Not to mention the increased likelihood of higher turnover. This doesn’t mean you have to put up with laziness, but be aware of where the line needs to be drawn. Engagement centric cultures are keenly aware of where this line is meant to be.
- Empowerment & Self-Expression – We are all individuals and we seek out ways to express our uniqueness in all areas of our lives. Work is no different. We spend over 60% of our lives at work, so to not give people an opportunity to have an outlet for their uniqueness is stifling who they are. Not too many folks are likely to be engaged in an environment like that. It doesn’t mean they should have the right to wear hats like what we saw in the Royal Wedding, but find a happy medium. Give people room to have a dissident, yet respectful, voice. Healthy conflict brings quality innovation.
- Compensation – I could just feel some of you waiting with bated breath to see if this would be part of the list. I purposefully put it last because it is consistently lower than what many employers believe it to be. A recent study showed that 89% of employers believe people leave because of money and only 17% of employees said they left their last employer because of compensation. Pay people fairly in your industry, even slightly above industry average. You get what you pay for. If you want to attract and retain top talent, you can’t underpay them. Benefits are usually lumped together with compensation in most people’s minds.
Give yourself 10 points for each trait your organization possesses and see where you rate!
0-20 Your turnover and productivity are most likely an embarrassment and you would rather stick needles in your eyes than talk about this subject publicly.
30-50 If the topic is one of the areas in which you scored well, you enjoy having a conversation around what really has worked well in your organization. If it’s one of the other areas, you’re off to get another drink or an unexpected trip to the bathroom.
60-80 You feel confident enough to actually comment on blog posts that talk about employee engagement and expect people to believe you know what you’re talking about. Maybe even an occasional tweet if you feel exceptionally daring.
90-100 You are currently being fitted by your tailor for a cape and some form fitting underpants. Great work!