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Putting People First: The Power of Employee Engagement

So what are companies doing to better engage their employees in the workplace? We picked the brains of some savvy HR influencers recently via Twitter to find out.

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In the course of compiling its most recent employee engagement Meta-Analysis Report, Gallup crunched decades of employee engagement data to demonstrate the clear connections between highly engaged teams and an organization’s bottom line.

Among the findings:

  • Companies with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable.
  • Engaged employees are 20% more productive.  

As Gallup observes, the relationship between engagement and performance is significant—and “highly generalizable” across organizations. 

“Business units with more engaged employees have better odds of achieving the outcomes their organizations want—such as revenue, profit, and productivity,” the report states.

So what are companies doing to better engage their employees in the workplace? We picked the brains of some savvy HR influencers recently via Twitter to find out. As you’ll see, for many companies today, keeping employees engaged is a journey, not a destination. 

“There are many drivers of engagement, but we place intense focus on two of them:  rewards and recognition followed by development,” says Adam Tartt, COO at MyEmployees. “[We] utilize many forms of recognition, from on-the-spot, spontaneous recognition to systematic monthly, quarterly, and annual recognition. … The recognition can take the form of cash rewards, beautiful plaques, lunches with the CEO, shopping sprees, and even trips to amazing destinations all over the world. 

“Regarding development, one of our core principles is to be a team of lifelong learners.  We have weekly book club sessions during which we pay our team members to meet for an hour to discuss a book that our company reads together.  These are books that the company purchases for every employee, and are focused primarily on improving some area of their personal lives.”  

Soliciting ideas is a great way to engage employees, according to Mike Haberman (@MikeHaberman), Consultant and Partner at Omega HR Solutions. 

“Everyone who is or wants to be engaged is happy to provide input, and is allowed to do so,” he says. “The more introverted ones may need to be drawn out. If someone has no ideas about their work, then they’re not engaged, and you have a problem.”

Laura Smith (@LauraSmithSPHR), Vice President of Global Human Resources at DISYS, says varied and frequent communications are key.

“We engage through CEO-led quarterly calls with all employees, VP-led monthly calls with teams, and manager-led calls every week as well as in-person visits,” she says. “We communicate regularly about how our company is performing, and transparency is important in the information we share.” 

For Paul Falcone (@PaulFalconeHR), a senior human resources executive, employee engagement has to be personal.

“Spending one-on-one time on a quarterly basis with team members to discuss goal attainment, quantifying achievements for resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and building individual development plans around goals that tie to personal and career interests all help spike accountability and engagement,” he says. “Further, assigning rotational leadership responsibilities to staff members, broadening their exposure to senior leadership, and providing training opportunities to obtain professional certification could go a long way in engaging employees and building their loyalty.”

Monika Fahlbusch (@monikafahlbusch), Chief Employee Experience Officer at BMC Software, says that listening is essential to creating an “ongoing connection” with employees.

“Whether it’s directly asking questions, conducting surveys, soliciting feedback, or measuring behaviors through data, the result needs to be a response that resonates with and is meaningful to employees based on what they have told you,” she says. “Actionable steps that show that you’re actually listening to employees will ensure significant, positive changes in your organization.”

‘Treat people like human beings’

Neil Morrison (@neilmorrison), Director of Strategy, Culture and Innovation for Penguin Random House UK, spoke for many of the influencers when he offered this advice: Just treat people like human beings.

“Recognize their differences, preferences, and individuality,” he added. “Be open and honest, as transparent as possible about ‘the deal’ between the company and employees.”

Or as Dave Ryan (@davethehrczar), Director of HR at Mel-O-Cream Donuts International Inc., puts it: “A company must be real and honest from the top down. Said another way: Treat people like you want to be treated!” 

China Gorman (@chinagorman), Board Chair at Universum Americas, says three elements are necessary to create a culture with “a foundation of trust.”

“Leaders at all levels must be trustworthy, fair, and approachable,” she says. “Middle managers–those closest to the employees–must be equipped with human relationship building skills (put down the devices!). And employees need to understand the meaning of their own work. How does what they do impact the organization’s output?”

Lori Almeida (@lorialmeida), Chief Talent Officer at Siegel+Gale, places a premium on performance appraisals.

“We hold appraisals twice annually to connect on performance and goals,” she says. “For women in the organization, I’m on the launch committee of the New York chapter of Omniwomen, which was created to advance women in leadership roles. We’re also launching Next as a part of Omniwomen, targeting our junior-level employees to learn valuable professional skills such as networking, negotiation, and mentoring.” 

Some influencers take what might be called a contrarian point of view. For example, Ben Eubanks (@beneubanks), Principal Analyst at Lighthouse Research, says companies need to “stop talking about engagement.”

“Engagement is a means to an end, not an end itself,” he says. “By considering the broader impacts of an engaged workforce, from greater productivity and retention to increased innovation and revenue, HR leaders can get the rest of the business to buy into the idea of engagement. This unified focus will help the firm to spend engagement dollars where they’re needed most, such as coaching managers on how to develop their employees and giving employees opportunities to do meaningful, high-impact work.” 

It’s a view seconded by Steve Browne (@sbrownehr), Executive Director of HR at LaRosa’s Inc.  

“Too often organizations make engagement a program,” he says. “We’re trying to make sure team members are connected to what they do in their role and to the company as a whole. It’s an ongoing effort, not a program.” 

Want more advice about engaging your employees? Go to espresa.com.

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Computerworld's IT Salary Survey 2017 results
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