Companies have many assets: intellectual property, facilities, equipment, brand image, and goodwill. But none are as valuable as the individuals who walk through the front door every morning and do their part in creating, delivering, and supporting a corporation’s products. Yet most workers (68%) do not feel engaged, a sentiment that managers need to acknowledge and change.
A one-sided partnership describes the relationship between employer and employee nowadays. Simply put, staff believes their company treats them unfairly. In some instances, such feelings are justified; for example, women and people of color have often felt on the outside looking in.
So, how can management close the gap?
Communication is Key
Communication has to improve, and that process begins on an employee’s first day. The organization has to set clear expectations and performance standards that outline what responsibilities a person has and how they will be judged.
Employers must set performance goals and regularly check in with subordinates to review their progress in meeting them. The traditional once-a-year evaluation has been giving way to ongoing, Just-in-Time coaching. Regular interactions ensure that employees know where they
stand, what is working, and what needs their attention.
Create a Clear Career Path
Workers invest in the company and expect the same from the firm or business. Therefore, corporations must provide programs supporting employee growth because workers want to learn and advance. A career ladder clearly defines career paths and lists the required education and experience necessary for different positions. The ladder makes it easier for employees to visualize their career paths and track their progress.
The Importance of Clarity and Consistency
Employees can only improve their performance when they know how they are measured and what they must do to be successful. Therefore, an enterprise must make employees aware of performance challenges and help outline ways to address them. In some cases, an employee may need additional support in the form of a mentor who can share best practices with them. Investing in training programs demonstrates that the corporation wants to help the employee succeed.
In addition, staff expects managers to be impartial and consistent in their evaluations. Enterprises must implement policies and procedures that all employees can turn to. Allowing select supervisors to bend policies is ill-advised. Management that does so finds themselves rightfully accused of discriminatory treatment. Make no mistake: Employees talk among themselves and share information about their interactions with supervisors. The idea that one person is treated differently than others causes friction, often creating tension, reducing morale, and hindering collaboration. To ensure all workers are treated fairly, employers must set clear rules and put safeguards in place, so policies are implemented justly.
Empathy and Flexibility Needed
Sometimes employees are not able to control everything that occurs in their lives. From time to time, outside events can impact their performance. Policies that are too rigid to allow for any flexibility exacerbate problems. They also create a sense of an “us” versus “them” mentality rather than a “we” and “us” working together as a unit and complete system.
So, employers are encouraged to give their staff the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. Organizations must be empathetic and attempt to accommodate employees by enacting flexible policies. Accidents and emergencies occur and require that an employee requests an exception to a rule. Managers must use good judgment and common sense when evaluating these requests. Having them reviewed by human resources professionals and legal counsel protects everyone involved in the final decision.
Create an Inclusive Culture
Human nature has an innate desire to belong to groups. Employees stay where they feel like they belong and are a part of something greater than themselves. Such feelings don’t happen automatically. Corporations need to develop them proactively.
A formal mentorship program connects employees with leadership. A mentor shares their experiences with the protégé and provides advice for navigating the corporate waters. Examples include informal Friday afternoon gatherings that allow employees to unwind before the weekend. Recreational sports create opportunities for staff to interact with one another outside the office and create a bond. In the spirit of collaboration, management should ask employees for suggestions for such activities.
Think Like an Employee, not a Manager
A discrepancy often exists between why employees quit their jobs and how employers interpret the reason. For instance, while over 70% of employees believe that their companies can reduce turnover by enhancing their benefits packages, only 42% of businesses consider employee benefits to be a significant concern.
To ensure policies that impact their livelihood align with staff’s expectations, management should proactively seek employee feedback rather than reactively adopting policies that meet business objectives, leaving employees with the leftovers.
Why Invest in Employee Engagement?
Building a culture of engagement is not easy. The work can be significant, but it is worthwhile for several reasons. Unengaged employees eventually become former employees, and turnover is quite costly. A company expends six to nine months of an employee’s salary to fill their void. Replacing a $60,000 per year salaried employee costs from $30,000 to $45,000. The price includes recruiting and training expenses.
Also, engaged employees:
- Are enthusiastic at work
- Feel high levels of job satisfaction
- Avoid regular absenteeism.
The end result is that businesses with highly engaged employees generate 23% higher profits.
Corporations seem to recognize the need to make a change. More than 90% of employers took steps to enhance the employee experience.
Enterprises often neglect their most valuable asset, their staff. As a result, the organization does not maximize its potential. To build a culture of engagement, businesses need to set firm expectations, think like employees, and create an empathetic, inclusive culture. If they take such steps, the organization becomes much stronger and employees much happier.