Engaged Workforce

Sage Engagement Advice

Research finds five key differentiators to increasing employee satisfaction and productivity.

By Bob Nelson, Ph.D.

Hiring the best talent is of little value to your organization if you don’t take the proper steps to
engage those recruited employees. Research from Quantum Workplace, a company that tracks employee engagement scores of more than 1.5 million employees within 5,000 companies nationwide, compared employers with high engagement scores with those whose scores had dropped in recent years. The study revealed five key differentiators:

  1. A clear, compelling direction to empower each employee
  2. Open and honest communication
  3. Continued focus on career growth and development
  4. Recognition and rewards for high performance
  5. Benefits that demonstrate a strong commitment to well-being.

But how can an organization act on these differentiators to impact engagement? Here are actions you can take to make each of these elements a reality:

A clear and compelling direction points to the need to create a vision for your organization that speaks to every employee. This often stems from the stated mission of the organization, but go beyond that to actively involve employees in the goal-setting process. Ensure each employee has tasks that directly relate to the organizational mission. Help employees have a clear line of sight and feel as though they have some control over their work and impact on the business.

Honest and open communication is the top-reported employee motivator and absolutely necessary for anyone to do a good job at work. All levels of employees need to not only have answers to their specific job-related questions, but information about what’s going on in other parts of the organization. Employee will gain confidence by knowing about new products and services, and the organization’s strategies for success.

Communication should come from all levels. While hearing it straight from the top is effective, employees also need support from their direct supervisor or manager. Treating employees like individual business partners by communicating with them on an honest and open level will lead them to be more committed, dedicated, and hardworking.

By painting a bigger picture and providing a positive outlook for the future, employees will feel like an integral part of the plan to move forward. Keeping negative information from employees is never a good policy; they are capable of handling the facts, as long as they are presented in a sincere, straightforward manner. It’s also important to stress the positive: Even during times when it seems as though there’s nothing but bad news to report, find the silver lining. Tap managers to help communicate and ensure that messages are conveyed in a timely and consistent manner throughout the organization.

Continued focus on employee learning and development helps to show a long-term focus on employees. In my research, management support of employees who want to learn new skills is one of the top motivators reported by the majority of the workforce today.

Workforce Insight
Since all development is essentially self development, providing opportunities to learn and grow benefits both them and the organization. Most employee development occurs within the job and the work employees are doing on a daily basis, coupled with the opportunities that arise from constantly changing circumstances in the workplace. Taking an action- oriented approach in ushering employees to develop new skills and responsibilities will help employees better meet individual career ambitions as well as the changing needs of the organization.

Properly trained employees perform better at their jobs and tend to work harder. Whether in the form of preparation for a new or advanced role, or a program designed to promote growth within an existing role, all staff members need continued education and development. It provides a foundation of a well- rounded workforce who is willing and able to take on new tasks or projects when the need arises.

Singling out the most promising talent and providing additional opportunities for them to further develop their skills and strengths is another excellent strategy for engaging and retaining. Furthermore, cultivating a culture of development can boost a company’s reputation as one focused on providing clear career paths and on-the-job training to ensure employee success or advancement.

Recognition and rewarding high performance are the greatest drivers of performance for any manager and any organization. What is the best way to motivate employees? Surveys and studies have revealed a very simple formula for successfully recognizing staff: Treat your employees with respect, pay them fairly, and reward them when they do a good work.

Although money is a motivator, it is not the only motivator, and it often has limitations. Creative, no- cost ways that show your appreciation in a timely manner can have a large impact too. Something as simple as praise is effective and can be delivered several ways: personal, written, electronic, and public. Both small and large accomplishments should be recognized as well as individual and group efforts. If you don’t recognize performance when it happens, organizations are likely not to achieve the level of employee performance they need to succeed.

Benefits that demonstrate a strong commitment to well-being is a surprising strategy to increase employee engagement. This can range from comprehensive healthcare coverage to everyday perks such as refreshments, flexible working hours, or the use of a company fitness facility.

“Employers can significantly influence, if not control, how motivated and satisfied their employees are,” says Greg Harris, president of Quantum Workplace. In fact, the most powerful motivators for today’s employees are within reach of every manager and tend to have little, if any, financial cost.

Bob Nelson, Ph.D., is president of Nelson Motivation Inc. and a frequent presenter for companies, associations, and conferences on the topics of employee motivation and engagement as well as author of 1501 Ways to Reward Employees. Dr. Bob can be contacted at (858) 673-0690, bob@drbobnelson.com or visit his website at www.drbobnelson.com.

BOX: Low-Cost, High-Impact Recognition

Showing appreciation sends the message that employees are valued, and that the organization wouldn’t be as successful without them. However, money isn’t always vailable for cash rewards or high-ticket items. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still several options for showing employees that their time and work is valued and appreciated. Here are a few approaches to consider.

Low-end rewards. This can include items like e-cards from Starbucks, Amazon.com, gas cards, discount restaurant coupons, gift certificates, or even a bouquet of flowers. Provide a context when given to the honoree to tie the recognition to a larger goal of the employee or the work group.

Symbolic recognition. This can be tokens, pins, ribbons, a certificate, or plaque that has special meaning. For example, Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, supplies tokens to all supervisors to give to employees to reinforce core values. The tokens can be redeemed in the employees’ paychecks for $10, but most employees who receive them prefer to keep the tokens as a memento and forgo the additional money.

Spontaneous celebrations. Something as simple as an ice cream social, takeout pizza, or doughnuts in the morning can make employees feel valued so long as the gesture is in response to an individual or group success or milestone and not just a random act.

Time off. Time can be used as an award itself: a voucher for a long lunch, an afternoon or an additional day off. At Greenough Communications in Boston, Massachusetts, for example, high-performing employees are awarded by being able to leave at 3 p.m. on Friday. And JS Communications in Los Angeles, California, recently gave employees two free “I Don’t Want to Get Out of Bed” days to use in the forthcoming year.

Employee perks. Simple low-cost benefits that are available to all employees such as soft drinks, coffee, bottled water, snacks, or the use of a company fitness room are great for company morale. Krieger has held fast to simple employee perks such as “Bagel and Doughnut Friday” and found ways to bring employees together in a relaxed, social settings.

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