Training & Development

Employee engagement: Difficult, but worth it

Last week’s column, “What If Your Boss is the Problem?” generated some nice emails and comments from people who had read my book, The Great Employee Handbook, and used the approach previously.

Others reached out after implementing some of the advice for the first time.

In the end, most of the action comes down to holding up one’s own mirror, complimenting the positive and cushioning a concern within good, healthy messaging.

One note said the advice was not good and no one would use it. There would certainly be retribution and the employee would be fired.

I feel bad for someone having to work with a boss carrying that philosophy. That undoubtedly cultivates a toxic, intimidating work environment where few employees, while they may be content in many ways, fear their bosses and are sent the subliminal message that their opinions don’t matter.

Who wants to work in a culture that unhealthy?

So what are positive work cultures? They are where employee engagement is measured and acted upon. There is typically supervisor training so they can provide the best leadership to the workforce. They have a well-communicated and lived mission, vision and values.

These traits go hand-in-hand with companies listed among the nation’s most admired.

Research by Gallup that has been published worldwide shares the Gallup Path of Microeconomics.

It says that investing in the development of great managers leads to engaged employees which creates engaged customers. That leads to growth and increases success. The Gallup Path identified this set of elements from a database of more than 500,000 separate business units, the most advanced analytics ever on the subject of behavioral economics. (I highly recommend the book The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup.)

Clifton writes that the game-changing resource in the workplace lies within the almighty power of human nature first. And that resource? The engaged worker.

Here are some tips to create that culture in which an employee is engaged:

  1. Schedule regular development sessions with each employee. An employee’s top two influencers on engagement are “my boss cares about me as a person” and “the company invests in me” (i.e. training). During these meetings, focus on a developmental goal you have for the employee or a goal the employee shares with you. This covers both of the top influencers. The vast majority of workers – managers included – want to do a good job. Creating a safe environment to share developmental goals as well as providing coaching is paramount. These regular meetings prevent the situation where the only time a supervisor and employee meet is during an issue (usually a negative one). Don’t fall into the trap on not meeting because things are going well. That is a great time to meet.
  1. Include the employees in the hiring process. I will go more in-depth with this in a future column, but including staff in selecting their co-workers has many benefits. If this happens, it’s almost guaranteed that the existing employees will be more helpful with the new staff member. Why? Because they were involved in the selection. Even better, the new employee already has a relationship with existing employees on Day 1. All workers want at great co-worker. Give them a chance to contribute in the process.
  1. As a supervisor, try not to give solutions without asking the employee what they think. This helps the employee develop and hits the critical aspect in employee engagement: “My opinion counts.” This tells the employee that their input matters and sets the tone that the supervisor doesn’t believe they always have all the answers.

While there are basic human value reasons for creating a great workplace of employees Gallup research shows there are solid economic reasons.

If you compare top quartile businesses to bottom quartile businesses, the top ones have:

37 percent lower absenteeism.

24 percent lower turnover.

27 percent less theft.

49 percent fewer safety accidents.

60 percent fewer quality incidents (defects).

  • These top quartile business have 18 percent higher productivity and 16 percent higher profitability.

Creating a great place for employees is hard work. It takes courage. It takes transparency. It takes open-mindedness. But the work and investment is well worth it.