Employee Engagement – how it affects you

Some interesting research results being reported over on Fistful of Talent by Lizz Pellet who is the Chief Culture Officer at EMERGE International in a post titled “The Economic Recovery F-You Factor“.

And yes…for those keeping score, this is the 2nd day in a row that I’ve linked to Fistful of Talent…they’ve got some great stuff over there.

A few highlights from the article:

Leadership IQ Group surveyed 4,000 individuals who watched colleagues get laid off and were left behind to carry on and found:

  • 75% said their productivity had declined
  • 70% said the quality of products/services had declined
  • 81% said customer service had dropped

Interesting numbers and not surprising.

Do you want to do business with an organization that shows these numbers?  Would you want to give your hard earned money to a company who’s employees just aren’t engaged and really just don’t give a hoot about their job, their product/service or helping you?

Think employee engagement doesn’t matter?  Take a look at those numbers and then think again.  Employee engagement is more than a buzzword or something consultants are trying to sell you…it’s real and effects your employees, your organization, your customers and you.

During downturns like this, organizations always have to cut costs and inevitably there are lay-offs.   That said, the manner in which companies cut costs, treat their employees and handle employee layoffs will come back to haunt them.

What happens to these companies when the economy picks up?  It won’t be pretty.

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In a downturn, people are vital

Management Issues had an article on Sept 25 titled “Looking after talent is vital in a downturn” that gave me hope when I saw the title.

The article discusses results of a survey Personnel Decisions International that shows that organizations are starting to realize that people are key…especially during hard times.

The article says:

Despite the economy taking a nosedive and more firms cutting jobs, U.S managers say they are now spending more time working on retaining key staff, including paying them bonuses and sending them on training courses.

According to a poll of more than 530 HR and other professionals by recruitment firm Personnel Decisions International, nearly a third ranked “accelerating development of key employees” as their top strategy when it came to retaining top talent, followed by “competitive pay and benefits”.

Interesting results.

The article continues with other statistics from the PDI research and other surveys….but it seems that only the first few sentences are related to ‘looking after talent in a downturn’.  I was hoping to read an essay on how, during an economic downturn, your people are one of your most important assets.  I guess I’ll have to write that essay myself 🙂

While I don’t want to get into now…and don’t have time to do the research (I have a paper that is due in 3 hours), I would like to say:

Employees are your most important asset during Good AND Bad times.

There…ok..I feel better. 🙂

The rest of the article has some interesting statistics related to employee engagement:

  • nearly six out of 10 workers said they were not fully engaged, according to the poll of more than 2,000 employees.
  • Having a good relationship with a supervisor was a key element of feeling engaged, cited by nearly eight out of 10 workers
  • seven out of 10 workers polled said they had been asked to accomplish tasks without receiving proper training beforehand

These are very interesting but don’t relate to the title…these are engagement issues that will are interesting in and of themselves. I get the feeling the author of the article needed some filler and tried (unsuccessfully) to link the two topics.

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A Thought on Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has been seen as a ‘buzzword’ for some time but also been touted as something that every organization should focus on. It appears that there is some progress toward engaging employees (see the “Further Reading” below) but of course, many organization’s just don’t “get it”.

Instead of talking about how to engage employees (like I’ve done here and here), I wanted to take a second to address one simple little topic that any organization and/or person can implement that will help with employee engagement…or more importantly, help not to disengage employees.

What is the tiny & simple thing that you can avoid doing?

Don’t make your employees feel like under-appreciated (or worse unappreciated) drones.

Example

You bust your hump working overtime to bring a project in on time. You put in 50 to 60 hours and your team does the same. Each team member has demonstrated their abilities to get the job done many times over and morale is quite high.

After the project is complete and you’ve got some down-time, you have an opportunity to attend a seminar. The seminar is free and is directly related to your job and is being held at a local restaurant over lunch. You sign up for the seminar (hey…its free food an an interesting topic right?) and tell your boss that you plan on attending the seminar and then going home and plan to work from there the rest of the afternoon. Your bosses’ response:

Sure…go ahead..sounds interesting. But…I’m not sure I’m comfortable with you working from home…you’ll need to take a half-day off to do this.

Talk about pulling the wind of your sails….perfect way to disengage an employee.

Remember…if you want to get your employees more engaged, make sure they know they are appreciated. Pay attention to the small things…take an afternoon and go bowling with the team. Buy them a pizza occasionally. It’s usually these small things that will benefit you the most….and hurt the most if you don’t attend to them.

Further Reading:

Employee Engagement – not just a buzzword

“Employee Engagement” is one of those ‘buzzwords’ that you hear thrown about quite a bit…but this is a buzzword that should be carefully thought about by every organization.

A recent survey, reported on by Management Issues, has some very interesting results pertaining to Employee Engagement. The article, titled “Getting to the Heart of the Disengagement Gap“, reports the following results:

A poll of 14,000 employees across 10 European countries by consultants Watson Wyatt has confirmed what a number of similar large-scale surveys have been suggesting over the past few years – namely that there is a vast reserve of untapped potential in the workplace in the form uncommitted or actively disgruntled staff.

It also revealed that more than four out of 10 are actively considering leaving their current employer.

But whereas a 2007 poll of almost 90,000 workers by workplace consultancy Towers Perrin found that just a fifth felt engaged with their work, Watson Wyatt found that only 13 per cent (fewer than one in seven) displayed both strong commitment as well as having a good understanding of the part they could play in making their organizations successful – an understanding Watson Wyatt term “line of sight”.

Only 13 percent of the workforce is fully engaged and trying to create value of organziations. What are the other 87% of the workforce up to? Are they lazy? Incompetent? I highly doubt it…its more likely that the organization has done a poor job of describing how each person’s contributions can affect the organization.

The lack of Employee engagement isn’t just the fault of an organization. There are people who are OK with doing ‘just enough’ to get by but an organization should do everything in its power to ensure that employees are happy and that they understand how valuable they are to the organization.

Whether you agree with the Towers Perrin study that found 20% engagement or Watson Wyatt’s 13% engagement, I think you’d have to agree that there is a problem. How many coworkers/employees do you know that are actively seeking employment elsewhere? How many are really doing the best job that they can do?

How can an organization engage employees? There’s no simple answer…it takes long-term effort by both the organization and the employee(s). I’m not an expert in this field (or any field!) but I will provide a few basic thoughts on how to get started engaging more employees.

  • Hire right
  • Don’t ask for (or expect) an employee to ‘live to work’ for you…respect their life outside of the office.
  • Hold all employees accountable. If an employee notices that there are ‘sacred cows’ that aren’t accountable for their actions, their level of effort and engagement will drop.
  • Offer flexibility for work hours
  • Offer job rotation opportunities – this would hold especially true to young/new employees….keep people interested and don’t let them get bored with their job.

Those are just a few thoughts…i’m sure there are many more. For a great follow-up article on the subject, read Wayne Turmel’s latest article titled “Employee Enagement has a ring to it” that discusses this topic…great article and worth reading.

[tags] Employee Engagement, Human Resources, Organizational Behavior [/tags]