Employee engagement is often handled on a superficial level by organizations, but to truly make a difference in retaining employees, companies must start tackling it more authentically.
“The first thing [to do] is to try and create more open dialogue on a regular basis,” said Brad Federman, president of Performancepoint LLC and author of Employee Engagement. “We tend to look at engagement and satisfaction as an event – as a once-a-year survey. The reality is it’s what happens after the survey process that really matters. It’s the postscript; the follow-up; the action planning; demonstrating the value of the feedback and the fact that you’re taking that feedback seriously.
“A key thing that people should do is begin to build more connections. [Managers should create] vehicles for connecting [employees] to their work, to the team, to the organization as a whole. The more connections [they] have and the stronger these connections are, the more likely people are going to be committed and more productive.”
Additionally, moving past the often transactional nature of manager-employee conversations and reaching a point where managers and employees actually get to know each other can unlock what an employee is passionate about — and managers can then incorporate those passions in the workplace.
Federman said that employees today tend to think of the relationship between an employee and an employer as one of equals, so the old command-and-control structure that many companies still use is no longer effective.
“Employees are looking for organizations and leaders that are authentic [and] transparent,” said Federman, adding that they’re also looking for demonstration of trust. “They want consistency. What is said internally and externally should match. When there’s inconsistency between those two, it creates disengagement.
“People are looking for leaders that inspire, that are perceptive and creative, not bureaucratic [or] policy driven,” he said. “They’re looking for leaders that are truly accountable and organizations that want to create more ownership across the organization. So it’s not about fear and blame; it’s about opportunity and ownership.”
Overall, Federman said, employees want to feel a connection to their employer and passion for their work, though there are different levels of engagement.
“There are the employees that show up to work because they need a job; they need to pay the bills,” he said. “There are employees that show up because they have goals; they’re focused; they want a promotion. There are employees that show up because they have a mission to believe in. And then there are people that show up to work because there’s a real passion and cause there — they feel like they’re bettering the community; they’re improving lives; they’re impacting people on a day-to-day basis — and a large portion of whether people feel that way or not is based on the culture that’s bred in the organization.”
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