Employee Engagement

Engagement – is it worth it?

I was pleased to be visiting a company I hadn’t seen in a few months and was surprised to see a whole sea of new faces as I walked across the main office floor. Once in conversation with one of the senior managers, I asked if they’d had a recruitment drive recently. ‘Well yes ‘ was the reply, ‘but sadly not for the right reasons. As you know we have always had a very low staff turnover but recently a lot of our most established and valued team members have left as well as many of our graduates and trainees. We can’t understand it!’

After much questioning about what had changed I observed that their previous and ongoing success in retaining their employees had made them complacent – particularly in sustaining engagement. There had been a lot of promotions lately but the new front line managers and team leaders had not been given the resources they needed to know how to engage and motivate their teams. It was assumed, because they were themselves engaged, that they would know what to do to engage others. The new leaders did try to begin with but the need to upskill these newer managers and leaders on ‘how’ was drastically underestimated and senior managers were very busy trying to compensate and ending up firefighting or onboarding most of the time, not spending much time with the newer managers. On top of that, there was a lot of change driving through the business, some triggered by the ever changing external landscape and some by internal shifts in priorities and company goals. People have become less likely to stick with a job purely because of money and they are more likely to move jobs to find a company that is more in sync with what really matters to them. Other motives which could influence people's decision to move on:

  • Lack of recognition
  • Inadequate management
  • Changes in leadership/leadership style
  • Not a cultural fit
  • Lack of challenge and stimulus
  • Long hours resulting in poor work-life balance
  • Not enough development opportunities
  • Low basic pay

The discussion led us to think about just some of the things the company could do, or re-visit, to address the problem.

  • Engage hearts and minds - Vision and value alignment - Make sure each person’s individual values were recognised and supported and aligned to the company values. Regularly re visit the long term vision and clarify business objectives and goals for the shorter term. It is essential the whole leadership team can translate vision into reality for their teams
  • Motivate people on both intrinsic and extrinsic levels. It’s not enough to just reward results. Empower people to make decisions and have more responsibility, accountability and ownership of their performance in their role
  • Create the right culture – Leading by example and manage time effectively ensuring time to listen and invite ideas and innovation for improvement from the team. Recognise and value contributions
  • Talk is work – communicate more and adjust leadership styles and communication mediums to suit the situation and the people – remember there are now potentially 5 generations in the workplace and everyone has unique and equally valuable needs
  • Build leadership, as well as management, capabilities and don’t neglect developing the softer skills like emotional intelligence and mindfulness. ‘People the world over are more likely to be disaffected, disengaged or de-motivated by their managers than motivated or inspired’. Steven Sonsino, Fellow London Business School
  • Authenticity – if you don’t believe in what you are saying and doing, then neither will your team. They will see through you in moments.
  • Have some fun! It might be a challenging time but people spend a lot of time in the workplace and if they enjoy it they will feel more positive and passionate.

By addressing just some of these practices the company quite quickly started to see a shift in attitude, an improvement in performance and a reduction in attrition. But it’s still early days and to sustain these improvements a consistent and honest approach to all the issues must be maintained. Its hard work to get to the right place and even harder to stay there – but it’s worth it!

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