Employee engagement – the route to retention
Employees who are fully engaged in your business are likely to work harder and to act as ambassadors for your brand. But engagement can do more than this. It can ensure the longevity of your workforce by supporting retention of employees. This is particularly vital as the economy picks up, when the first to leave are likely to be the most talented.
So what can modern companies do to engage and retain employees?
Know the basics
Going back to at least the 1960s, we’ve known that employee satisfaction and engagement in their jobs is about more than just pay and perks. Ensuring decent pay and a comfortable working environment removes the sources of dissatisfaction, but it does not create active satisfaction and engagement. To do that, employees need to be provided with creative challenges, problems to solve, and opportunities to take responsibility for outcomes, things that will feed their need for self-actualization. Everything else is a refinement to this.
Use social media
Social media is often seen as a distraction from involvement in work rather than a way to deepen it. But the experience of Baldwin-Wallace University’s College 101 Course shows that this needn’t be the case. Their social networking solution, where students published their action plans and updated their progress, showed that a simple social media solution could increase engagement with work.
A company social media space, whether it’s an in-house design or simply a private space on an existing platform, can help to create connections within the organization. It’s a natural place to build mentor-mentee links, to provide incentives for work, and to let employees update others on their progress. By connecting social systems with progress in work, and encouraging interaction around them, it helps to reunite the fractured modern workplace, making it more than just a nine to five.
Treating employees as replaceable cogs in a wheel is one sure way to ensure demoralization and disengagement. Standard operating procedures, policies and structures are important, but so is knowing when to be flexible. As Terry Pratchett wrote, ‘rules are there so that you think before you break them’.
One of the best ways to do this is to personalize the employee’s experience. This can come in the form of the rewards they receive for excellent work. Parents are likely to want more flex-time and time off to spend with their families, while young recruits are more likely to seek mentoring and career support. But sometimes it’s just a matter of avoiding obvious mistakes that show thoughtlessness, like the manager giving a Christmas bottle of port to his teetotal assistant.
Personalization extends to positions as well. Some employees may be particularly expert in their area but hate managing people. Some are the opposite way around. Make sure there is space for both to get promoted without running up against work they will seek to avoid. If possible, build teams around the available employees and their skills, rather than trying to ram round pegs into the same square holes time after time.
Recognize that engagement keeps changing
What works for your current employees may not suit your new recruits. Engagement can shift with workload, seasons and time of day. So don’t just create a recruitment plan and consider it done. Stay engaged with the process yourself, constantly looking for ways to update your approach.
Engagement isn’t straightforward. It can create clashes of interest in how you engage, and that’s what we’ll look at next.
Other Articles in this Engagement Series:
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