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It’s not surprising that today’s employers cringe at the thought of employee engagement goals. Of all the goals businesses are charged with measuring, engagement goals tend to be the toughest. How do we measure employee engagement when there is a lack of consensus regarding its definition? Frankly, it is easier to identify disengagement in an organization than it is to identify engagement. We all remember the old saying, “It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch,” and let’s face it, every organization has at least one. Disengaged employees are not only unhappy, but they spend most of their time attempting to undermine their employers. Today’s world of technology and social media add an additional level of complexity when it comes to employee complaints, forcing companies into reactionary roles in the attempt to protect themselves against damaging reviews. With easy access to public sites such as Facebook, Yelp and Glassdoor, disgruntled employees waste no time at all posting negative reviews. Generally, our happy employees don’t bother posting their positive experiences but unhappy employees make a point of posting negative experiences.
The real question employers must ask themselves is, “How do we take on the battle of negativity?” Battling negative comments can be challenging and while larger organizations have greater resources to hire full-time public relation staff that is simply not the case for smaller businesses. For companies who don’t have large budgets to battle negative press, there are effective ways to counter negative comments. For example, organizations can utilize their human capital by encouraging all employees to post company experiences on social media. This approach allows customers and potential new hires to read positive employee reviews, which not only out number negative comments, but also make it apparent to customers that negative reviews are the minority opinion.
Ensuring employees are engaged will increase company success but this is not as simple as offering a great compensation package and top-notch benefits. Companies must focus on instilling loyalty from employees and to do so they must understand employee needs. Over the years employee needs have been driven by the generational views of Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and now Millennials. In 2015, Millennials surpassed Generation Xers in the workforce and the number continues to grow as our Baby Boomers retire. Failure to recognize Millennials as a force to be reckoned with will surely lead to the demise of even the most successful of organizations.
What does this really mean? Millennials (born between early 1980s and late 1990s) are a tough bunch and very technology savvy! Research tells us that while they are looking for meaningful work and have high expectations of their employers, they are the first generation to readily accept leadership from the older generation. Also, you might be surprised to learn that they are looking for stability and thrive in collaborative work environments. What company wouldn’t want to embrace the opportunities Millennials offer? By having a better understanding of what drives our workforce, it becomes more apparent that organizations need to ensure they have strong leaders in the driver’s seat. Only then can real engagement goals be reached.
It is a well-known fact that employees, “quite their bosses.” Today’s companies need leaders, not managers! Leadership is more than the old task-based process of assigning work to subordinates, performing annual performance reviews, and addressing performance issues. Leaders must understand their employees on a human level and constantly assess how their team is holding up. They should be molding jobs to closely align with employee strengths. Furthermore, employees need their leaders to be empathetic and understand them well enough to build solid relationships.
"Ensuring employees are engaged will increase company success but this is not as simple as offering a great compensation package and top-notch benefit"
Employers must support the success of their leadership team by implementing a strong company mission, vision, organizational values, and tools that drive team engagement. For example, annual performance reviews on their own lack positive business results in today’s workforce. It is important to focus on creating a performance communicat ion loop that allows for immediate communication, that can be tracked and later incorporated into an annual performance review. Incorporating real-time communication through mobile applications is a great way to provide feedback, both positive and constructive, so that employees know where they stand. Employee survey applications can also be a helpful tool, but remember if you are going to survey your employees, be prepared to follow up and make changes based on feedback. Doing nothing will only increase employee dissatisfaction. Other ideas companies may explore to improve engagement are flex-time, job-sharing, and remote work environments.
Ultimately, strong leadership from the CEO down is the key to instilling a sense of engagement and overall success of a business. Regardless of what perks and tools organizations put into place to increase employee engagement, having a sound mission and vision that drive company culture is paramount. If leaders take the time to listen, provide meaningful work, clear direction, and map out clear opportunities for advancement; employee engagement will be the result and become the fabric of the organization.