The key take-away
Engaged employees get better business results over the long term, and leadership can create a culture of engagement through sincere, two-way communication.
About this article
Published in Raconteur Magazine on May 16, 2016, Leadership and Employee Engagement: the Essential Guide is one of a series of “Raconteur Guides for Business.” The article cites CBI research that 80% of companies with higher levels of employee engagement see better productivity and 65% see improved customer satisfaction. But employee engagement remains stubbornly anemic for many companies. The article offers three key points of advice:
- Management needs to connect with employees on a human level.
- Management can use modern communication tools to create a two-way conversation.
- Providing the most desired benefits will improve engagement and loyalty.
Management needs to connect with employees on a human level.
Leaders set the tone for corporate culture and so modern leaders need to create a culture of inclusion by taking a sincere interest in what’s going on with employees, observing, asking questions, and connecting on a human level.
If management can involve employees in developing and communicating corporate standards, employees will have the autonomy to make their own decisions but act within well-communicated corporate values.
My take: this advice also reminded me that management has to act in accordance with defined values. If customer service is a basic corporate standard, then management cannot task managers with cost cutting at the expense of customer service.
This is one of the reasons that open communication and observation makes a huge difference. Leaders may implement initiatives that cause unintended consequences. Detached managers never hear about these problems which undermine performance and engagement.
Management can use modern communication tools to create a two-way conversation.
Modern leaders use any communication tool at hand to stay in touch with employees. From the article: “CEB research shows that employees who operate in a more networked leadership environment tend to show 35 per cent higher employee engagement.”
Social media allows leaders to create a “conversation” rather than send out one-way directives which leave employees feeling unheard. According to Newsweaver, 46% of companies are planning to implement an internal social network.
My take: as I watch companies implementing new technology, there’s always the temptation to assume that the technology is the answer. No cool social media or on-line gaming will create lasting engagement unless managers are sincerely interacting with employees and involving them in business decisions.
Understanding the most desired benefits will improve engagement and loyalty.
While every employee wants something different, companies can solicit feedback on desired benefits and pay attention to whether those offered really meeting employees’ needs. For example, offering emergency child care benefits or access to 24/7 doctors can help build loyalty.
Research by Hays indicates that flexible work hours are the most desired benefits. Commonly desired benefits also include support for diversity and religious holidays.
My take: many companies use polls to see what employees need from their benefits package. Talking with front-line managers can also provide insight into what people need.
And if companies are willing to experiment with new and more flexible benefits, they might be surprised. Remember when the idea of telecommuting raised scandal? But many companies found that it worked better for them in the long run. And some companies today have jettisoned structured vacation days and working hours to give employees flexibility. Managers focus on work accomplished, not hours in the office.
Employee engagement has been an elusive goal for most organizations. Any one person’s commitment to a company depends on varied and complex circumstances. But most of the advice on creating engagement that I’ve read boils down to one thing: you need leaders who view employees as people with something to contribute and who sincerely want to find out what that is.