Sustaining businesses successfully through Employee Engagement

Headrush India in action

“In practice, values are best defined by employees in the business itself rather than just the senior leadership team.”

Businesses have long recognized the importance of cultivating proud, motivated and loyal employees. In fact, organizations that still operate with the mentality that workers should do their jobs and keep their mouths shut are likely to flounder. These days, the old style of management has largely disappeared – but so has the trust that once existed between employer and employee. Layoffs and cutbacks in a difficult economic environment have generated fear and suspicion among employees. Companies recognize that their long term viability depends on finding, retaining and motivating good employees.

Organization can create sustainable businesses with top-down commitment and constant follow-through by senior managers.

The most important components of employee engagement, we believe, are:

1. Focused Engagement:

Employee engagement unquestionably yields multiple benefits. Research and statistical data show that organizations that embrace engagement are more productive and profitable, and have more satisfied customers. In addition to having an overall positive attitude about themselves and their organizations, engaged employees:

  • Go out of their way to make customers happy.
  • View change as challenging instead of distasteful and intimidating.
  • Welcome opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Always maintain a sense of perspective, and don’t allow setbacks or mistakes to discourage them.
  • Are willing to try new things even though it may be uncomfortable.

Corporate executives who recognize the importance of engagement typically conduct employee surveys every year or two. They encourage their employees to offer candid assessments of the company, their divisions, their colleagues and their superiors. Organizations that have never formally attempted to measure employee engagement can begin by assessing readily available material, such as performance evaluations, turnover and absentee rates, and training and coaching initiatives.

2. Well-being

Well-being at work encompasses many things, but essentially it means that employees care about their company and it cares about them. Businesses often profess to having their employees’ best interests at heart, but their practices indicate otherwise. A state of well-being means employees take pride in their work and are proud of their organization. This is impossible to achieve without a motivated workforce. Most observers agree that motivation is self-sustaining.

Employers can offer short-term motivational tools such as pay raises, promotions and recognition, but over the long haul, employees must find the drive within to be productive. Employees typically are motivated when they:

  • Feel that their jobs matter, and are not just tedious, mind numbing and repetitive.
  • Have a sense of responsibility and the autonomy to make decisions.
  • Feel connected to their co-workers and are part of a larger cause or mission.
  • Believe that their company properly utilizes their knowledge, skill and experience.
  • Gain recognition from their superiors and colleagues for worthy achievements.

3. “Information”:

Disengaged employees complain that they don’t have a clear idea of their companies’ direction. Even organizations that have defined a so-called “vision” need to formalize strategies that lay out their corporate goals and the behavior they expect from their employees. Although it may take years to achieve, a vision leads your organization to where it wants to be. A vision demands that employees maximize their potential and imagine limitless possibilities. This mindset requires employee engagement. To turn a vision into reality, an organization’s leaders must clearly identify its strategic goals and aspirations, focus on a handful of realistic initiatives instead of many, create a culture which consistently reinforces strategic initiatives, and ensure that executives and managers express their strategic goals.

4. “Fairness”

Fairness means treating people properly throughout their entire employment experience – from recruitment and hiring to professional development to rewards and promotion. Southwest Airlines’ managers place a premium on attitude and values, hiring only people who seem likely to fit in well with the culture; an individual’s skills are secondary. Companies that carefully screen candidates have lower attrition rates and save thousands of dollars filling vacancies. Assessment tests should take into account a candidate’s potential behavior, and his or her ability to react to circumstances that may arise on the job. Good managers are careful not to throw new hires straight into the fire. A gradual transition allows employees to become acclimated to the corporate environment.

A new employee’s first weeks on the job can determine whether he or she will get a favorable impression, and may set the tone for years to come. Many employees complain about insufficient feedback about their performance. Part of the problem is that managers find performance reviews annoying and time-consuming. However, failure to provide regular and constructive feedback harms morale and adversely affects motivation. The policy at one large U.S. pharmaceutical company, for example, is to withhold merit pay from managers who do not complete performance reviews on time.

5. “Involvement”

Involvement means keeping lines of communication open throughout an organization. Managers and employees should interact constantly. Some managers choose not to engage with their staff, or refuse to delegate tasks because of their basic insecurities and control issues. They’re worried that their department’s performance will reflect negatively upon them, or are frightened that someone else will do the job just as well and expose their shortcomings.

At some point, executives should overrule such practices. Companies should strive to cultivate meaningful relationships between senior managers and employees. Managers who spend the majority of their time locked in their offices quickly lose touch with the basic needs and concerns of their staff. Leaders who spend time “in the trenches,” instead, send a positive message to their employees and generate engagement at the highest level.

-SAUROV KAKOTI

This was a guest post from Saurov Kakoti. He is a Manager at Headrush Outbound, a South Asia based outdoor experiential learning company.

Headrush aims to impart training to variety of different ends, by merging the engagement level of the outdoors, with the science of assessments.

For its more rigorous training oriented clients, Headrush also offers Headrush Insights, its rigorous Outdoor Education modules.

You can find out more about Headrush via their website: www.headrush.in and connect with them on Twitter: @HeadrushIndia.

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