We recently attended a PRSA seminar and though the agenda covered a variety of topics, one theme echoed across the board: employee engagement. Surveys from a range of sources place the national employee engagement level around 30 percent, meaning that 70 percent of employees – regardless of industry – are non-engaged in the work place. The number is staggering and the implications are even worse: if employees are not reaching their full potential then the companies they work for can never achieve maximum output. Unengaged employees have a direct impact on the bottom line, with Gallup estimating that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 to $550 billion each year.
Over the past few years, driven a great deal by the latest and largest generation in the workforce – the millennials – there has been a shift in the structure of company benefits and incentives. While pay is still an important factor, its relevance has been toppled by a deeper connection to a company and respect and recognition within an organization. Employees, especially those among a generation that’s shaking and shaping the workforce, want to know that the company they are working for is making a difference and in turn, that they are doing the same, and that their hard work is being recognized and rewarded. By definition, employee engagement is the willingness and ability to contribute to a company’s success. In order to foster this type of connection between a company and its team members, an employee-centric culture must exist within the work environment.
Company perks, such as flexibility in work hours and casual Friday, play a key role in employee satisfaction, but are only one component to achieving complete engagement. Building a team that has an inherent interest in the work they are doing and the guiding principles of the business is the best way to fuel a company’s productivity and improve overall well-being. Based on extensive research, Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report, companies should consider the following to optimize employee engagement and positively influence the bottom line:
- Hire the right people. Seminar speakers Abbie Fink, vice president and general manager of Phoenix-based HMA Public Relations, and Tom Hoog, former president and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, emphasized that organizations should hire for fit, not skills. We should assume that potential employees have the specific skills required to do the job. What we can’t assume though, is that they are a natural fit for our organization based on the impressive background summarized in their resume. Take time to get to know candidates during the interview process and ask questions that can help you determine if their goals and aspirations are in line with those of the company. Especially at the managerial level, seek those that will support, mentor and effectively lead their teams.
- Recognize team members’ strengths and empower them to build upon those strengths. Research shows that employees who use their strengths on the job everyday are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. While some strengths emerge naturally, others may not be as obvious and as a result, may remain dormant and not effectively utilized. One resource used by many organizations as a means to tap into talent is StrengthsFinder. Companies will see great benefit from recognizing the strengths of its employees and empowering them to nurture and expand those skills to achieve full potential.
- Focus on the well-being of employees. Gallup research showed that employees who are engaged in their jobs are generally in better health and have healthier habits than employees who are not engaged or are actively disengaged. Supporting the well-being of employees helps companies keep their health costs lower and output higher. Initiate programs aimed at improving the health of employees and hold team members accountable by setting realistic goals.
It’s up to each agency to cultivate their own culture from within and create a work environment that fosters employee engagement. Here at Wireside, we fully recognize that our team is our most important asset and take steps to let them know how much they’re valued. The workplace culture is reflective of the collaborative spirit of the agency. While the work is fast-paced and challenging, the agency ethos is to be supportive and transparent. As a small agency, we have the flexibility to design work perks around the things that matter most to our employees. For example, we often send our team to fun, off-site learning seminars and extend business trips to accommodate time for personal travel/exploration. This year, some of our team members went on a once in a lifetime adventure in Kyoto, Japan as an opportunity to get to know each other better and share a truly special experience.
What methods, practices or principles has your organization implemented to enhance employee engagement?