People are a company’s most significant competitive advantage in today’s business environment. Companies that want to optimize their talent as a strategic way to get ahead will focus on employee engagement that improves overall workforce productivity and delivers returns on staffing investments.
Studies have shown that the drivers of employee engagement have everything to do with how an employee feels about work. It begins with the employee feeling connected and invested in the company’s mission and direction, and continues with the employee having trust in the company’s leadership.
1. A flexible work environment fosters productivity. While remote work opportunities reduce the carbon footprint and avert hours wasted in traffic, more often than not, companies do a poor job of looping remote workers into the day-to-day activities of the business. Unfortunately, the typical adverse impact of remote work for the employee is out of sight, out of mind. Research shows that remote workers and workers on flex-time schedules receive less coaching and mentoring, and miss out on the institutional knowledge-sharing and socialization that happens in the typical course of a shared workspace.
2. Strong paychecks equal strong loyalty. Not all people are primarily motivated by money, and more often than not, fair and sustainable pay is not a motivator— it is a table stake. For years, company leaders have approached solving the employee retention problem through monetary rewards and incentives. While this economic motivator works for about 20 percent of the population, most organizations are finding that employee spiffs and salary increases alone are insufficient in reversing the turnover trend.
For 80 percent of the working population, money is not a lever that leads to engagement and buy in. About half of workers want workplace rewards in terms of more educational opportunities, rewarding and challenging projects, and a sense that they can further their knowledge and career path as a result of working with a specific company or in a certain role. The other half want to feel emotionally connected to the mission and service of the organization, and to the customers they serve. Increasing their customer-facing opportunities is much more rewarding than putting a few extra bucks in their paycheck or a giving a gift card for a few free cups of coffee.
3. Employee independence is necessary for performance. One pervasive myth is that all employees need autonomy and independence, and the more hands-off that management is, the better the employee will perform.
The reality is that autonomy and independence are not values that everyone shares. To one employee, being left alone can be a true benefit and they may thrive when left up to their own devices. To others it is a recipe for feeling disconnected, isolated and ignored.
Employee engagement isn’t just about ensuring your teammates are happy. It’s a critical advantage in today’s competitive work environment. When you are competing with other companies— whether it’s for sales or talent acquisition— it’s your people that can drive your business across the finish line.
4. A job is just a job: Today’s workers have much greater expectations for work/life fulfillment than ever before. Employees fundamentally want and need more than a paycheck. A striking majority of workers have said they want to find purpose and meaning in the work they do, and that they feel happier at work when they know that what they do matters to the success of the organization.
5. Employees should be satisfied with their current position: High-performing people need to see a pathway for themselves in the role they own and in the company they work for. Engagement research shows that when people see a pathway for their growth and development they provide a higher-level of consistent results for the team. When employees feel that a company is invested in their growth, they are more committed to their role and more connected to how they impact the success of the company.
6. Your company is enough to keep the employee: The final myth is that people go to work for a company, and their loyalty to the company and its brand are enough to keep them engaged and retained. What has become painfully apparent over the past decade is that people don’t leave companies—they leave managers. When a good employee does not have a strong relationship with the manager, no incentive or brand loyalty will keep the employee fully engaged. People need to feel appreciated, respected, acknowledged and important; when their direct manager does not provide meaningful assignments, regular feedback and mentoring, engagement is thwarted.
While all of these perceived solutions are good ideas as components of an effective employee engagement program, alone they are insufficient means to drive employee connection and engagement. When carrots like money, time off, autonomy and career path are not coupled with alignment, good people management and “match fit,” those incentives wind up costing companies millions and derive little or no benefit in the long run.
A well thought out, conscious employee engagement program considers who people are as individuals, and allows for customization in the approach to assigning work and giving feedback. Individualization is a 21st century shift from the one-size-fits-all management of the ’80s. A main component of a well-built employee engagement program includes a highly competent management team that embraces coaching and mentoring people.
When a manager takes the time to offer professional development opportunities, communicate how the employee’s role contributes to the overall organizations success and rewards for great performance, employees feel valued and appreciated, and engagement soars.
Source: Magi Graziano, as seen on NBC, is a speaker, employee recruitment and engagement expert and author of The Wealth of Talent. She is also CEO of Conscious Hiring and Development®. Through her expansive knowledge and captivating presentations, Graziano provides her customers with actionable, practical ideas to maximize their effectiveness and ability to create high-performing teams. With more than 20 years’ experience as a top producer in the recruitment and search industry, she empowers and enables leaders to bring transformational thinking to their day-to-day operations.