June 25, 2018 // By Rian Gorey
Earlier this year, Magenic performed our second annual corporate wide employee engagement survey. Why is this this so important? Unemployment hit an 18 year low last month (3.8%) in the United States - virtual full employment as skills and geographic mobility dictate some level of movement. No doubt.... there is a war for talent. People make the difference. Research has shown that supportive leadership dictates employee retention more than salary. Research also shows that a caring community is one of the strongest drivers of revenue outperformance. In particular, when employees in a high-trust culture experience a caring workplace, they are 44% more likely to work for a company with above-average revenue growth.
So how do companies fall out in developing a supportive culture and engaged workforce? According to a 2016 Gallup Survey, employees fall into three categories:
- Engaged (15% of workforce) - loyal and emotionally committed to the organization;
- Not Engaged (67% of the workforce) - these employees can be more difficult because they are often relatively happy and satisfied in their role but not invested in the company's mission, vision, values or goals.
- Actively Disengaged (18% of the workforce) - We have all worked alongside these people. They are constantly negative, create a toxic environment, dominate their manager's time and are usually vocal about their unhappiness.
Gallop research shows that employee disengagement costs the United States upwards of $550 billion a year in lost productivity. So one could see why this is both a serious problem that most leaders and managers face with today’s workforce — but also an amazing opportunity for companies that learn to master the art of engagement. Organizations with strong employee engagement scores generate revenue growth at a rate 2.5 times higher than companies with lower marks. According to Bersin by Deloitte, at least 85% of business leaders globally believe engagement is important. Managers everywhere can help solve this problem -- and reap the benefits of higher employee engagement.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs
So how might we engage better? Much has written on the subject. From the survey I have done, there are some common themes.
- Leadership / Management - As leaders, we improve engagement by defining and communicating a powerful vision for the company. Leaders hire and develop managers who are emotionally invested in the organization's mission and vision and give them the resources to build great teams with the right people in the right roles. We are Servant Leaders; Good leaders empower others. Great managers ensure that they acquire and develop great talent - they get the right people on the bus and make sure they are in the right seats. They actively prioritize engagement and align the activities around the organizational mission.
- Start Right Away - Great engagement starts on Day 1; Good habits are learned early. Start with mission, values, policies, procedures, and job specific orientation. It continues with on-going support and mentoring throughout their early career.
- Create Transparency / Two way communication/ Check in often - Communicate, communicate, communicate. If we are all on the same team and seeking similar goals, they are more likely invested in a common mission and goal. Doing this successfully requires sharing and communicating very thoughtfully. Oftentimes, this is complicated by having team members working remotely on different projects and in different locations and seeing each other less frequently than traditional companies. This is important from an organizational level and also on projects. On projects, creating (or forcing in some cases) open dialog between team members eliminates cycles of distrust and unproductive time accomplishing project objectives. Organizationally, try to share as much information as to direction, performance, and about one other. Come together as a team monthly in work for from office days or virtually, outings and break bread with one another as often as possible. We meet with our employees individually every six weeks with a structured agenda to focus on assignments, company and career goals.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” – Stephen R. Covey
- Provide Opportunities for training/Development and Advancement - This can be challenge within a dynamic consulting environment with challenging client deadlines and training needing to be on demand. Leaders need to truly care about creating careers for all of our team mates. We have formal training sessions, do webinars, lunch and learns and encourage certifications but time and customer demands are always a complication. In a highly dynamic environment, there never seems to be enough time to learn new skills. In addition to training, revenue growth provides opportunities for advancement; top performers can grow into leaders. Growing requires investing continually in growing leaders.
- Provide a Strong Feedback System - Beyond SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely), feedback should be factual, behavioral, aligned, given often and it should two ways. We should ask often: How am I/are we doing? The most valuable feedback takes place every day in real time. We do regular formal and informal team get-togethers, structured and unstructured 1:1 lunches with our consultants using a 'balanced scorecard", we perform engagement surveys of our clients and employees quarterly, and ad hoc surveys interests and preferences on on our intranet and tools like Survey Monkey.
- Create Incentives and Focus on Top-performing employees - Incentives take many forms from money to gifts to time to recognition. All are appropriate in particular situations. My company builds great software quickly and work hard to solve difficult challenges which our clients face. It is so very important to say "thank you" and appreciate the hard work of our teams, especially those who go above and beyond.
When I joined Magenic a year and half ago, one of the most important considerations in my decision was understanding the company culture. In my career I had seen both healthy and toxic cultures. Culture is a hard thing to pin down (and change) but we all know it when we see it! In the recruiting process, I had the opportunity to meet with corporate leadership but also insisted on meeting a half dozen people "in the trenches" allowing me to get a sense both of opportunity to succeed and the sense of joie de vivre of whom I would work with on daily basis. Employee engagement is an important component of culture. Eighteen months back, I made the right decision; As a General Manager leading an important segment of our company's business, I am honored to serve the great team with whom I work each day.