New World of Employee Engagement Pt. 1

April 22, 2014 by in category Employee Engagement with 0 and 0

engagementThe Brave New World Of Employee Engagement: The surprising reasons employee engagement may not be working.

Employee engagement is often seen as the holy grail of organizational enlightenment.

No surprise there. After all, the studies you see publicized paint a grim picture. Take Gallup’s State of the American Workplace study, that points out only 30% of employees are engaged, while 52% are disengaged and 18% are actively disengaged (meaning they’ve taken action like looking for a new position on your dime).

Gallup data goes on to estimate that this last group–the actively disengaged–actually cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. That’s a lot of Facebook surfing.

Yes, Employee Engagement has become a focus for many companies. The Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study (2500+ organizations) claims that one of the biggest challenges being faced is retention and engagement. (Rated by 78% of business leaders as urgent or important.)

We’ve even heard it ourselves. The HR leadership I’ve spoken to consistently express their concerns about attracting, recruiting and retaining top people. Because they realize as the economy improves, key talent will seek their own personal job improvements.

Are all those employees really that unhappy? You betcha. But it’s not just your company, it’s our changing landscape.

The grass is always greener with access to the Internet.
People no longer shop or buy the way they have in the past. Today’s multi-channel world offers your customers more choices, while empowering them with third-party insights into your products or services through online sources. Instead of visiting a store or awaiting a sales call, customers now more often switch between channels as they move toward purchase: shop by smartphone, watch TV, read online reviews, talk to a friend, even making an initial, low-commitment purchase from your company. It’s a more circular–or even zig-zag–buying cycle.

Guess what? Your workforce has experienced the exact same shifts, for the same reasons. Consider this…

  • “Work” has changed. As the borders between work and life blur due to the technology and communication changes, people are looking for more meaning, a more balanced work-life situation and the opportunity to grow and better themselves. Brands perceived as having a mission and “soul” are attractive to Millennials. Employees with the highest potential are more demanding with higher expectations.
  • Mobility is on the rise. Notwithstanding the political agendas behind Obamacare, it has dramatically reduced one key obstacle for job change: Employees can now more safely and change jobs. Expect to see those with rare skills like software engineers or biological engineers begin to migrate.
  • It’s easier to “shop” the job market. Just as the Internet has made it easier for customers to find information and competitive pricing for products and services–the same has been applied to the job market. It’s easier to find jobs, learn about companies, apply for a job and yes, even “competitively shop” the jobs available.
  • Social media provides transparency. We could go as far as suggesting social media could be one of the top influences on whether you can attract the best talent or whether your talent perceives something better in the market. It offers a more transparent look into corporate cultures. While you can control the content on your corporate social media, you cannot control your employees’ profiles. Many of your best employees regularly see into their peers’ workplaces. Does your culture stand out?

Today, if a company is not delivering a compelling customer experience, they can expect to see customer attrition. In most cases, that attrition is not even deliberate.

The same can be said for a company’s work experience. If it’s not compelling, your best talent will seek new opportunities, potentially leaving you hobbled as an organization.

Since the world of the Internet unfairly favors the negative, the stress and added workload for those left behind could create a false read of your culture on social media, making it increasingly difficult to find quality candidates. However, smart companies have taken this as a “glass half full” competitive advantage.

It’s not employee engagement; it’s an engaging employer.

What if YOU provided your employees those improvements they’re seeking elsewhere? Money comes to mind first. But before we address money, let’s talk about a few basic rules of true employee engagement.

  • Engagement is driven by self-motivation
  • Employees can’t be taught to care
  • Employees need to be respected and appreciated
  • Your employees need to believe in you (their leader) but won’t care about what you know until they know you care about them.

Money is part of it, but only part of the equation. If an employee leaves due to money, it’s most likely due to one of three things.

  • You’re culture is not engaging. Fortunately, by reading this, you’ve decided to make sure this will no longer be a factor.
  • They’ve not done their due diligence about the culture of their new employer.
  • They’ve traded culture for money. (It happens)

If it’s either of the last two, leave the porch light on for them, chances are they may be back.

As Daniel Pink points out in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, as long as pay is consistent with your industry, money drops in importance as a motivator for engagement.

I personally believe money is a manipulation. Like an obnoxious Black Friday ad. As Simon Sinek says, there are only two ways to influence human behavior: through manipulation or through inspiration. Advertising has taught us manipulation results in incremental changes, but not a long-term commitment. Manipulating a purchase with a sale price doesn’t necessarily result in repeat purchases, or customer loyalty. Financially incentivizing employees has the same effect. It creates short-term engagement, but lacks the long-term commitment.

Employee engagement follows the same course of action as customer engagement. First, you have to understand your employees, you have to establish buy in and finally execute on the processes. We’ll walk you through the process in the coming weeks as we continue our series on The Brave New World of Employee Engagement.