Employee engagement is an overused term with many meanings and definitions. Surveys remind us engagement is low and disengagement is too high. It is something every employee wants and every employer needs.
From a practical perspective, what does employee engagement look like? What employee statements will be heard in the hallways? What can a company do to encourage more engagement?
Prior to starting Conscious Culture Group, I worked in HR for 32 years and spent over a decade leading the HR function. During those years, there were many successes and failures. Based on these experiences, I have learned that engagement is achieved when six employee statements are part of the regular work day. Hearing more of any one of these statements moves the needle. Make sure you act and are patient. It takes time to create organizational and cultural shifts.
1. My boss values me
The expression that employees join for the company and leave for the boss is true. Based on hundreds of exit interviews I have conducted while in HR, I discovered the pattern that employees do leave for the boss was real. The way employees are treated by their manager can lead to excellence or apathy. Too often managers are promoted and then expected to be a “great manager” without the proper tools and training needed to be successful. Investing in the success of managers is investing in the success of his/her employees and the company. Setting up managers for success will increase engagement and reduce turnover. I can hear it now – “My boss is amazing.”
2. I really care about the company
Employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and their job. There are numerous surveys that demonstrate millennials prefer to work for organizations that are positively impacting society. Top leadership needs to effectively determine the organizational vision and mission that drives excitement and energy so that every employee feels like they there is a greater purpose for staying and working hard. Creating the connection between an individual’s job and the overall purpose of a company leads to a commanding level of engagement. Providing employees stock makes it formally true but it is more than that. The emotional tie to the importance of the organization’s purpose creates long lasting engagement. It is amazing to hear, “I believe in the work of my company.”
3. I have a future here
Another significant reason employees leave a company ties into the perception of lack of professional growth and learning. Employees stay at organizations and become more engaged when they are able to see the opportunities to learn and grow. Staying static creates complacency and reduces desire to give more. Managers need to know the needs and interests of each employee as an individual and provide appropriate developmental opportunities. It can be shadowing someone, attending a seminar, mentoring someone or becoming a team lead for a small team. Millennials and other generations require challenge and growth opportunities and if thoughtfully executed leads to more engagement while also furthering the achievement of organizational objectives. I love hearing, “There are so many opportunities for me.”
4. My coworkers are great
This best organic retention strategy can be seen away from work. It happens when employees choose to spend time together outside of work, not because it is a work event, but because they want to. It happens at happy hour, when playing in a softball game, while going for a walk during lunch, taking a hike on the weekend and during a celebration of someone’s success. Employees love who they work with will stay at a company for that sole reason alone. When there is a tight team, each person goes out of their way to ensure everyone succeeds which results in departmental and organizational achievement. When camaraderie happens, engagement follows. “I really enjoy my co-workers.” is a statement you want to hear.
5. My opinion counts
At Conscious Culture Group, we believe that employee voices matters. Leaders cannot create the culture alone from the executive suite nor can they change what they do not know. Rather, leaders must fully understand the employee experience by asking employees either verbally or through electronic surveys using a series of intentional questions tied to the unique culture. Understand what is working and what needs attention. And here is one key. If you ask and do nothing, you have gone two steps back. Organizational change only happens when the results, plans and actions are effectively communicated in a timely manner. Provide regular updates to ensure employees know their voice influenced decisions. If executed well, engagement follows. “I feel like they listen to me.” is an engagement statement.
6. I make a difference
For organizations to prosper, innovation and continuous improvement must be in the core of the culture. As Toyota teaches each employee, it is everyone’s responsibility to see kaizen – continuous improvement. It is a mindset that engages employees in their own role and moves the innovation responsibility to the person doing the work. When executed well and engrained into the culture, employees are frequently thinking about improvement opportunities and look forward to sharing their ideas. Every employee wants to know they are making a difference and be able to say, “I feel like I am having an impact here.”
One of the great joys from the work of culture consulting is that I have the role of listening carefully to and fully understanding employees from new hires to the CEO. The patterns of messages, words and tones tell the real story of the “state of the culture”. It is imperative for leaders to comprehend these stories and to use the intended culture language across all levels of the organization to further the direction of the conscious company culture. Listen carefully and you will hear.
Contact us for more information or to inquire about having us listen objectively and carefully to understand and share the employee experience. It will lead to increased engagement.