Having a high level of employee engagement remains one of the biggest challenges facing business managers. Countless studies show how engaged employees will result in higher productivity and improved retention and enable recruitment, innovation, and profitability.
However, being engaged is not always the same as being productive. Indeed, in a recent study of a Fortune 500 company, nearly 25% of employees were found to be engaged yet chose to work less. Arguably there are cases where people score highly in terms of employee engagement because they can coast, which is the antithesis of what business managers are looking to achieve.
Equally, without due attention to employee engagement, the downsides are clear: research conducted by Sirota Intelligence on Fortune 500 companies showed that in 85% of cases, employees’ morale declined sharply after their first six months working for the company.
Why is this happening and how can it be avoided?
The key is to understand what employees want from their workplace. Research shows the main criteria include:
The Employer’s Brand
In the digital era, thanks to portals such as glassdoor, an employer’s brand are becoming increasingly tangible, enabling potential recruits to investigate the company they are interviewing with ahead of time. Indeed, 75% of job seekers would consider an employer’s brand before applying for a job. In the same way, if a company invests in its brand, this is seen by existing employees, resulting in immediate benefits there too.
Training & Development
People want to feel they are developing their skills for their preferred career path. Nothing is more demotivating than for people to feel that their career amounts to doing the same thing every day, with no opportunity for development. But enabling people to take a step up requires businesses to invest in training people, which can be a considerable financial commitment.
Though it is a finical commitment, the business can gain from developing their employees’ skills. However, this creative talent needs to be managed accordingly to gain the most benefits. Find out more on Managing Creative Talent – your own and your employees.
The challenge concerning compensation is balancing what the cost of the employee is currently versus what their transfer salary is should they decide to leave. Studies show that whilst employees will accept a small deficit between what they currently earn and what they would earn elsewhere, that can only be temporary, meaning that only having annual salary reviews can directly lead to disengagement. Having a more flexible culture where salary reviews are more frequent is recommended.
When employees have issues with their direct managers, that is often the most likely reason they decide to leave their company. In the absence of exit interviews, that can be difficult to identify as the cause, making it a dangerous point for retention. How managers are assessed needs to incorporate how engaged their teams are. Demoting managers should be done if that is necessary to protect overall engagement.
Positive working relationships with colleagues is something that is the hardest for business managers to facilitate. People come to work to pursue their professional careers and earn money, but their environment in terms of who they work with day to day is out of their control. In this environment, it is easy for hiring managers to pursue a mono-culture strategy, in the knowledge that people will be more likely to get on with people they can identify with. Equally, an office that lacks diversity has its drawbacks.
With that in mind, team building comes to the fore. Arguably only through management choosing to implement a strategy that engenders good working relationships between peers can happen. Not all team building needs to be expensive. Indeed just inviting out the team for a meal constitutes team building and gives them the chance to get to know each other outside the confines of their professional existence.
Especially with the rise of remote working, team building can be challenging when building a new team. John Moore, managing director at Exponential Training, has excellent insights on remote working.
For managers who want to invest more in team building, recommended exercises include volunteering, team sports, field trips, or professional development exercises. Finally, remember investing in team building needs to be a process, not a one-off. Consistently implementing exercises designed to facilitate engagement will be seen as genuine, wherein the millennial generation being an employer people want to work for is becoming increasingly valuable.
Over the last ten years, I have worked with professional services firms of all sizes to help them map out market activity to identify demand changes. For more information about how we can help, please contact me.