Engagement II

Employee Engagement, Workplace culture, HR Policy, HR Consulting

So how do you know if your team is engaged?

We talked last time about surveys but that’s a big cumbersome and expensive approach particularly if you are a small team. Let’s look at signs indicating that your team may not be engaged:

  1. Turnover – do you have too many or the wrong people leaving?
  2. Recruitment – are the costs too high and too few internal referrals?
  3. Tenure – does turnover comprise mostly newer hires?
  4. Policy – do you develop new business policies without consulting employees?
  5. Work Ethic – does the workplace empty at quitting time without much email traffic after hours?
  6. Environment – do people share information freely and challenge one another to come up with better more productive solutions for customers?
  7. Culture – were your HR practices copied from other companies?
  8. Quit and stay – do you have unhappy employees who have chosen to remain and are performing reasonably well but not going the extra mile?

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions the chances are that you have a workforce that is less engaged than it could be and consequently less productive.  Engaged employees direct discretionary effort towards company initiatives thereby improving performance. Employees that are happy with their environment, their colleagues and their work will contribute more to profitability than those who are not.

So what’s to be done? In our previous article we addressed the three main ingredients of the secret sauce of successful companies: Alignment, Positivity and Improvement. Here are some ways in which your organization or team can start to improve engagement:

  • Talking – just ask. A growing school of thought (and expertise) suggests that engagement begins with one person at a time. Work on engagement can start with asking open ended questions about what motivates Jim or Barbara and then acting on what the employee asks for, as appropriate. Just one example of such a question: If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?
  • Flexible Working – conditions need to be designed around your team; working parents need flexible work hours to tend to families, working downtown means employees occasionally will want to skip the commute and work from home.  Model your terms, conditions and benefits around your own employees’ needs – not those at your competition.
  • Screening – introducing people who don’t fit the culture but do have the skills will just not work and lead to unhealthy conflict and reduced motivation within your broader team. Include in your recruitment process screens for culture and values fit.
  • Referrals – encourage employees to refer candidates for recruitment. More often or not they will have the fit you seek. People like to work with people like themselves and will refer friends and former colleagues.
  • Policy – adopting work practices in isolation is not a good way to ensure that your people are happy. Explain the problem, the desired outcome and as far as possible leave the development of employees give their input to new policies to them as they are being developed – in most cases this will become of your greatest sources of innovation.
  • Facilities – expecting someone to commit personal time to work will involve the removal of barriers that prevent this such as easy access to the building after hours or on weekends, useful technology coupled with simple online access, etc.

Thus begins the process of alignment; first, understanding what your employees want and need to be happy and second, aligning work conditions, work arrangements, tools and processes to accommodate employees. This need not involve an expensive, time consuming study – just talking, one on one, informally will open the channels, and paying attention to their needs.

In our next E-news we will focus on what you can expect in terms of performance if you do a good job of engaging your employees and why this is good news for employees, managers and shareholders.

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