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Employee Engagement

Via Forbes : How Organizations Can Open The Door To Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a strategic imperative for organizations that want to be successful in attracting and retaining talent. As I heard Dr. Lisa Nishii, Associate Professor and Chair of Industrial and Labor Relations International Programs at Cornell University, describe it in a class once, employee engagement is how work does or does not get done in an organization. Engaged employees are connected to the organization and its goals, and invested in outcomes. Disengaged employees are trying to do just enough not to get fired (at best) or may be sabotaging the organization (at worst).

From special perks and benefits to measuring engagement levels of employees, this is a booming industry. The good news is that there are many experts who are ready, willing and able to help organizations and leaders with their employee engagement efforts. The better news is that there are three effective strategies you can begin using right now that will not deplete the budget.

Start With A Solid Foundation

One key component of employee engagement is to provide an environment where everyone can be heard, valued and respected. Organizations are well-advised to implement policies of respect and openness in the workplace that reach beyond compulsory compliance with state and federal laws.

Hold Everyone Accountable

Leaders should be vigilant to ensure employee behaviors are congruent with expectations and step in when they are not to hold everyone — including themselves and other leaders — accountable for the work environment. Workplace practices eat policies out of the organization.

Have An Open-Door Policy

Just about every company I know has some sort of open-door policy and, in theory, this is an excellent way to help employees feel heard, valued, and respected — until it’s not. Distractions, competing priorities and lack of openness to new perspectives often close those doors we claim to push apart. Here are some suggestions for swinging those doors wide open:

• Put down the phone and move away from your monitor. Employees need your undivided attention in order to connect and feel heard. Don’t make them compete with your email, texts or phone calls.

• Consider scheduling time to speak with employees. Agreeing to speak with someone who drops by when you have a meeting in five minutes may cause you to be preoccupied or hurried. Rushing through a conversation will have the opposite effect you were striving for.

• Resist the urge to rush to a solution. Do not make these interactions into a to-do list that you move through quickly to get them off your already overflowing plate.

• Listen with intentionality, ask clarifying questions and jot down notes when appropriate.

• Do not pull the “boss” card. Nobody liked the “because I said so” response from Mom and Dad when they were a child and they do not appreciate it as an adult. Everyone knows you are the boss — that’s why you get to have the open door.

• Try to see things from their perspective before you respond. Franklin Covey had it right when he said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

• Follow up to ensure the issues have been resolved or to see how things are going. This is an often missed, but critically important, part of the open-door policy, and it is essential for employee engagement.

Employee engagement is critically important to the success of your organization whether you are a behemoth company, a small business or anywhere in between. Luckily, good people practices that lead to increased engagement do not require astronomical budgets. Begin with solid policies and leadership accountability, and swing those doors wide open.

Via Customer Think : It’s Time to Consider Compensation in Employee Engagement Efforts

Throughout the business world, there’s no shortage of conversation about employee engagement. Experts all over agree that keeping employees engaged is vital to retaining key staff, driving productivity, and increasing innovation. What they don’t seem to agree on, however, is how to actually make that happen.

It’s easy to see why. It’s because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that will guarantee that all employees in every industry will remain engaged at all times. There is, of course, one critical part of employee engagement that business leaders and employee engagement specialists assiduously avoid ever discussing: compensation. The reason for that should be obvious to all, but in today’s challenging labor environment, a day may be coming where employers won’t be able to continue ignoring compensation as a key part of their employee engagement strategies.

A Cloudy Narrative

One of the reasons that it’s been so easy to ignore compensation levels in the quest for higher employee engagement is that there are plenty of statistics that would seem to contradict its importance. For example, an oft-cited study reported that 60% of all employees would take a slight pay cut in exchange for an empathetic employer. That particular statistic is illustrative in its murkiness. When you consider the fact that ’empathy’ isn’t a quantifiable employer trait, it starts to become obvious that the finding is irrelevant. There’s also the matter of response bias. Think of it this way: if a survey asked you if you’d take a pay cut for a more empathetic employer, wouldn’t you respond in the affirmative, knowing such a situation would never occur and was so ill-defined as to be meaningless?

An Unavoidable Reality

At the end of the day, while employee engagement does depend on a range of factors that extend well beyond a paycheck, it’s an inescapable conclusion that compensation plays a major – if not determining – role in worker satisfaction and engagement. The numbers don’t lie. Only 29% of hourly workers and 41% of salaried workers are satisfied with their current pay. According to William Sugarman, Esq., founder of Astor Professional Search, a national legal recruiting firm, “We’ve seen a marked shift in candidate attitudes regarding pay scales. In a tight labor market, with employers offering similar benefits and perks, salary is often the bottom line in their decisions.” There’s an inescapable logic there as well. If a majority of employees report dissatisfaction with their pay, it’s obvious that offering higher wages would lead to happier, more dedicated employees.

Transparency and the New Normal

For any business leader focused on employee engagement, it’s about time to start having frank discussions about compensation in their organizations. To continue to ignore such an obvious part of the employee engagement picture will only serve to sabotage any other efforts in the area, no matter how well-intentioned. In a labor market that is showing no indications of slackening, it’s more important than ever to embrace what should have been an obvious conclusion: better pay creates happier, more engaged employees. That’s not all though. Those that do turn their attention to employee compensation should also do their level best to increase transparency in that area as well.

Doing so will reduce the need for unnecessary wage increases for employees that were under the mistaken impression that they were being paid unfairly for their work. In many cases, having access to pay data alone is enough to assuage the negative feelings harbored by some employees, thus paying automatic dividends to overall engagement. At the end of the day, compensation is a two-way street. Employees want to be treated well and paid appropriately, and employers want engaged employees. When compensation is put in its rightful place in the employee engagement equation, everybody wins.

Via Forbes : Your Employee Engagement Strategy Needs More Wellness

Wellness and employee engagement go hand-in-hand. When an employee is happy with their job, it positively affects their health. When an employee is healthy and feeling their best mentally and physically, they’ll feel happier in the workplace. It’s a relationship that builds off of one another, and employers should really take advantage of that.

A study by Gallup found that 62% of engaged employees feel their work positively affects their physical health. However, when it comes to disengaged employees, this number drops to 39% and a mere 22% among actively disengaged employees. Out of these self-assessed disengaged employees, 54% say their work life has a negative effect on their health, while 51% see a negative effect on their well-being.

The results were even more dramatic when it came to employees’ psychological health. Gallup found that 78% of engaged workers feel their work lives benefit them psychologically, while just 48% of disengaged employees and 15% of actively disengaged employees say the same. Not surprisingly, 51% of actively disengaged employees feel their work lives are having a negative effect on their psychological well-being – as compared to 20% of disengaged workers and just 6% of engaged workers.

For a refresher, engaged employees are often described as involved, committed and enthusiastic. Disengaged employees are usually mentally checked-out, unmotivated and just “going through the motions” to get a paycheck. Actively disengaged employees are unhappy with their jobs and let that unhappiness drive them at work. They risk spreading this negativity to co-workers.

Not only do disengaged employees run the risk of spreading negativity and lowering office morale, they’re also costly to businesses. Gallup found that an actively disengaged employee costs their organization $3,400 for every $10,000 of salary, or 34%. With some research suggesting that as many as 87% of workers are disengaged from their jobs, this isn’t something employers should ignore.

Creating an engaged workforce is no small task. It takes effort and some investing on the employer’s side of things to keep employees happy and motivated in their roles. But the payoff is well worth it. Engaged employees perform significantly higher than their disengaged counterparts and are generally more loyal to their company.

So, how can a corporate wellness program help drive employee engagement?

Employees feel engaged when work feels more like a community and less like a factory. Employee wellness programs help foster a sense of community in the workplace. Wellness practices help bring teammates together through challenges, activities and healthy workplace habits. Employers are also able to demonstrate their support towards employees through offering wellness solutions and educational opportunities. Investing in an employee’s well-being is investing in their happiness.

A survey by Virgin Pulse found that 85% of companies say wellness programs support employee engagement. Approximately 42% of the survey respondents reported that their top reason for implementing a wellness program was to improve employee engagement. Along with employee engagement, respondents also reported that wellness programs had a positive effect on recruitment, retention and overall company culture.

Let’s break down how a focus on workplace wellness helps boosts employee engagement:

Stronger Work Relationships

Believe it or not, work relationships have a strong influence on employee health, happiness and job satisfaction. Unfortunately, workplace loneliness is considered to be a growing epidemic in modern society. Employees who don’t have supportive connections in the workplace are much more likely to feel disconnected from their jobs and become disengaged in their work altogether. Wellness programs can help fix this problem by offering employees opportunities for social connection. Whether it’s through walking clubs, group fitness classes or completing wellness challenges together, employees are more likely to feel engaged once they are able to connect with their peers on a deeper level.

Healthier Behaviors

Many health behaviors impact employee engagement. Habits such as sleep, nutrition and exercise can all have either positive or negative impacts on employees’ moods, happiness, attitudes and workplace behaviors. When employees practice unhealthy habits – such as getting fast food every day or not getting enough sleep – they don’t feel their best at work. Consequently, they won’t perform their best at work, either. However, when employees eat healthily, exercise regularly and get enough sleep, they’ll feel and perform their best. Wellness programs help support and promote these healthy habits among the workforce. Employees are much more likely to be engaged when they work for a company that nurtures a strong culture of wellness.

Less Stress

Workplace stress has been a top challenge for corporate America for years now. Employees dealing with chronic stress will not be engaged workers. In fact, stress is one of the biggest threats to employee engagement. When utilized properly, a workplace wellness program can help reduce some of the stress in the office. Wellness offerings such as stress management classes, on-site meditation groups and chair massages give employees the opportunity to relieve some stress at work. In turn, this helps boost employee engagement.

Improved Mental Well-Being

Mental and emotional health both impact employee engagement. An employee can’t be fully engaged at work if they are dealing with any mental and emotional health issues. Employers can help support mental well-being in the workplace by addressing it in their wellness initiatives and activities. Wellness programs that offer ongoing mental health education, resources and support help remove this barrier on employee engagement.

Higher Morale

Employee engagement is almost nonexistent at organizations with low employee morale. In fact, low morale almost always means employees are disengaged and often looking for work elsewhere. Wellness programs help boost employee morale by creating a strong company culture and bringing employees together to achieve wellness goals. When office morale is high, employee engagement soars.

When it comes to utilizing employee wellness programs to boost engagement, it’s important to remember that employee wellness is more than just nutrition and fitness. Effective workplace wellness initiatives will help employees become healthier and happy in all different aspects of their lives. To truly boost employee engagement, wellness initiatives must be comprehensive and personalized to fit the needs of the workforce.

Here’s how employers can utilize their workplace wellness programs as a part of their employee engagement strategy:

  • Invest holistically. Employers need to look at the whole person when designing and implementing wellness strategies. Employee engagement will not improve unless different health factors are addressed, including financial health, mental well-being, stress management, sleep habits, social well-being and much more. It’s a good idea for employers to invest in different activities and resources that touch on all of these elements.
  • Align goals. Wellness goals and productivity goals are more similar than one might think. Wellness programs will benefit from aligning wellness goals with productivity goals. For example, employers should focus on healthy habits that boost work performance. Encourage regular breaks throughout the day, have employees go for a walk when they are feeling stressed and provide energy-boosting snacks in break rooms.
  • Foster a culture of wellness. An effective wellness program will promote healthy habits among the workforce. Employers should provide healthy food options, encourage regular exercise throughout the workday and practice stress-relieving activities as a team. A strong culture of wellness naturally boosts employee engagement.

When implemented properly, wellness can play a vital role in your employee engagement strategy. Healthy habits lead to increased happiness in the workplace, while engagement and happiness in the workplace improve physical and mental well-being. Employers will benefit from building upon the relationship between wellness and engagement. A happy and healthy employee will be your best employee!

Via Forbes : Four Lessons From Companies That Get Employee Engagement Right

Research has proven that employee engagement contributes to increased profitability, yet most organizations still have no formal engagement strategy in place and two-thirds of employees are disengaged. A 2016 Gallup study drew the connection between consistently low engagement and team performance and suggested that when an employee’s engagement needs are not met, there is a higher likelihood of turnover — which can cost an employer 1.5 times the employee’s original salary. The study also found that engaged teams have lower turnover, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity and 10% higher customer ratings than disengaged teams.

Having an engaged workforce is clearly good for business, but there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy to make it happen. So, gaining a better understanding of what your unique employees need is the surest path to success. By putting your people at the forefront, you can discover what they need from their managers, work environments and leadership teams and proactively build an engagement strategy around those needs.

Here are four valuable lessons we can learn from four companies who have successfully put their engagement strategies into action:

1. Employees perform better when the company mission is clear.

In the airline industry, customer service is not always easy. Canceled flights and policy changes are rarely in the hands of flight attendants, and customer service reps must often deal with disgruntled customers. Yet, I’ve noticed that employees at Southwest Airlines are generally friendly and seem happy and engaged at work. What’s their secret?

In January 2013, Southwest unveiled a new corporate vision and purpose to its employees. It explained that Southwest leverages “the power of storytelling to make sure each one of its 46,000 employees pursues the company vision each and every day… by rallying employees around a common purpose.”

Engagement happens when employees feel like part of a bigger mission and purpose — but it must be authentically deep-rooted in leadership, business models and culture programs. True employee ownership of a company vision and purpose happens when employees live and breathe the mission in their day-to-day interactions.

2. Employees at all levels need to be recognized for their contributions.

Imagine if you tripled your company’s revenue and profit year over year, but your board of directors didn’t acknowledge your team’s hard work. Now scale this concept down to an entry-level employee. She might not be doubling company revenue, but the blog post she wrote — now her first piece of published work — is a major professional accomplishment. If nobody recognizes this personal achievement, she might not be as motivated to keep producing great work.

A client of my company’s that has 180 employees recently learned through an employee feedback initiative that some employees felt as though their peers were getting special treatment simply because they were more “liked” by decision makers. To address this issue, the company created a new program in which employees are invited to nominate their peers for recognition. This seemingly small action prompted a major cultural shift, and engagement improved across the organization. They were also in a better position to retain high-value client business as a direct result of more engaged customer-facing employees.

3. Employees are more engaged when they tackle big problems as a team.

A publisher of teaching and learning materials since 1807, Wiley Publishing faced a big challenge a few years ago: It had 700 branded social accounts that lacked strategic direction. Customers didn’t know where to go for customer service, and problems were being handled differently across departments.

The company decided to implement an all-hands-on-deck solution and launched social media training across multiple teams and departments to close the digital skills gap and create a more consistent customer experience. Interestingly, the approach didn’t just impact customer service. The publisher saw a 90% increase in employee engagement, too. As employees worked together as a team to increase internal collaboration and strategic thinking, worker engagement rates skyrocketed.

A collaborative, cross-functional approach to solving problems leads to a sense of ownership and camaraderie among employees.

4. Employees need to have a voice (and leaders who listen).

Candid feedback and input from those on the business’s front lines can be extremely valuable to informing business decisions. Before you can intelligently shape your organization’s overall engagement strategy, it’s important to gather direct employee feedback in order to move the needle on the problems that truly matter. Additionally, employee insights can help validate the gut feelings you may already have around broken parts of your company’s culture. I believe this so strongly because I see it in practice consistently as my company’s clients share their stories of utilizing our employee survey tools.

Our client company that has over 300 employees across multiple facilities already had a strong cultural foundation as a majority employee-owned organization. But its leadership team had a hunch that employees in certain remote divisions were less engaged than those at the company headquarters. The company began collecting confidential employee feedback each quarter to pinpoint engagement issues and areas for improvement. By amplifying the employee voice and thoughtfully taking action in response, the company saw quick results. They increased engagement scores across the company and have invested in a true culture of feedback.

Improving employee engagement won’t happen overnight and will look different for every business. Continually measuring employee sentiment will help you better understand what areas to take action on and how to make the biggest impact. When employees are authentically engaged, it leads to productivity, profitability and, more importantly, a team of workers pursuing the company’s vision and goals with vigor and enthusiasm every single day.

Via Forbes : Your Secret Weapon For Increasing Employee Engagement: Purpose

According to Gallup, around 70% of American workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. When you consider that the average American will spend at least one-third of his or her life working, this is a particularly somber statistic.

It begs the question: what if we were able to flip the statistic on its head? What if 70% of Americans became highly engaged at work? More importantly, what would it take?

The power of purpose

There are several factors that contribute to engagement at work, but one of the most powerful drivers of engagement is purpose. According to a study by Imperative, purposeful employees perform better across the board. They are more likely to rise to senior level roles, to be net promoters of their organization, to stay longer, and to have strong relationships with their colleagues.

In other words, cultivating a purposeful workforce not only benefits employees, but it can give employers a competitive advantage as well. Imagine a world where everyone spent the majority of their waking hours working on something that mattered to them. We would have happier employees and more productive companies – the ultimate win-win.

What it will take

Unfortunately, purpose is equally as esoteric as it is powerful. There is no single path to purpose and no single definition that encompasses its many facets. Every individual’s journey is different, depending on personal preferences, passions, and work environment.

Irrespective of the individual, however, there are three broad behavioral shifts that can help create a more engaged global workforce.

1. Lead with WHY.

Taking a cue from Simon Sinek, it may be as simple as asking the right question: why? This applies to both employers and employees. Companies must ask themselves why they exist and find a way to clearly articulate this “why” through a mission statement and a compelling brand (story). This can not only drive more purpose amongst existing employees, but may also enable prospective job candidates to better determine whether they would be a good fit for the job.

At the same time, employees need to spend more time evaluating their own personal motivations. Consider what exactly you want to get out of work, how you define success, and what type of environment might enable you to achieve success on your terms.

According to Cone Communications, 75% of millennials are willing to take a paycut to work for a values-driven company. So when it comes to attracting and retaining purpose-driven talent, leading with “why” might be the most effective HR strategy you can deploy.

2. Take purpose off its pedestal.

Purpose signifies a greater sense of meaning, but how you define what type of work is meaningful to you is entirely personal. Some people find fulfillment from helping others, while others derive meaning from learning something new or working on a project they are particularly passionate about. As a society, we seem to have decided that some “purposes” are more worthy than others, but why should a banker feel any less purposeful than a social worker?

The proof is in the pudding. A study published by the American Psychological Association found that hospital janitors, responsible for some of the most menial and unglamorous of daily tasks, were amongst the most purposeful workers they surveyed.

As long as we rely on society to define what a valid purpose is, rather than the individual, people will continue to be woefully disappointed when they discover that being a doctor or a missionary doesn’t necessarily guarantee a greater sense of fulfillment.

3. Uplevel expectations.

As the lines between work and life continue to blur, we must raise our expectations. This not only applies to our expectations of employers and the culture they create or the benefits they offer, but rather our expectation of work more broadly.

Given the amount of time we dedicate to our profession, there is no reason to settle for being disengaged. In fact, it’s concerning that 90% of Americans seem to have accepted this as a daily reality. Thanks to the growing number of freelance platforms and tools available, you can design pretty much any job (or portfolio of jobs) you desire – as long as you have the passion and the drive to do so.

As a society, we need to move away from the notion that you’re “stuck” with the hand you’ve been dealt. Instead, what if we embraced the concept that inspired the original “American Dream” – the belief that you can design a life you love, as long as you’re willing to work for it?

In conclusion, yes, our society’s current lack of career engagement is cause for concern; but there is reason to be optimistic.As millennials now make up the largest generation in the workforce, “purpose” is becoming an important criteria for evaluating potential job choices.

Given the reality of longer life spans, paired with dwindling financial support from social security, we have to reevaluate career satisfaction for the long haul. And, in order to affect change at scale, we must take responsibility and start leading by example. Whether you’re an employer, employee, or both, consider how your day-to-day actions, conversations, and decisions might help enable these three mindset shifts. By prioritizing purpose, we can help rebuild a more engaged, fulfilled, and productive workforce – we can all win.