Employee Engagement: A Roadmap

By David Bator

You can’t afford employees that are not engaged. They are less efficient; simply going through the motions rather than working to their full potential. They also have higher absenteeism and turnover rates. This all comes with a steep price tag. In the U.S. lost productivity costs organizations as much as 300 billion annually.1 A significant portion of payroll also becomes pure cost – with no return on investment – since disengaged employees give less while still receiving 100 per cent of their salary. What about finding a replacement for an employee who chooses to leave? It can cost upwards of twice the departee’s salary.2 All of which directly impacts business outcomes.

Employee participation and performance leads to profits, as demonstrated by companies with high levels of engagement. What follows is a road map to help your organization join their ranks. It’s based on the work we do everyday to build engagement within leading companies. It’s not about annual surveys, reward catalogues, or initiatives that circle engagement but don’t deliver. It’s about results.

Be Social
Traditional corporate communication must give way to a process that is more dynamic and more sophisticated. Most important, that process must be conversational.3
— Harvard Business Review

There is value in two-way dialogue. It brings your organization together, provides insights, and transforms employees from passive recipients to active participants. Conversations lead to relationships, and relationships lead to affinity.

Pfizer saw this first-hand. By encouraging online participation among their workforce they moved from a broadcast to dialogue style of communication, and brought their community strategy of ‘Connect, Listen, Educate’ to life. They involved their employees in conversations about work and the company as a whole. This has created “…deeper connections between colleagues and the company’s purpose,” says Nicholas Patrick, senior manager, corporate communications. No small feat given that Pfizer has approximately 100,000 global employees.

Talk with your workforce, rather than at them. Give them a voice, and you all win.

Trust Your Employees
The idea of an open intranet where employees can share ideas, comment on discussions, and recognize each other publicly is something so many organizations shy away from. Yet these same employees have the keys to the office, login to the network, and have face to face contact with customers. Outside of the office they are parents, baseball coaches, and community leaders who are empowered by the value others place on their views and feedback. To deny this in the workplace undermines employee confidence and morale.

A true social enterprise is more than leveraging online media and networking tools. It’s about trusting your workforce while providing purposeful programs for them to be heard – whether it’s to ask a question, give an opinion, or pat a colleague on the back.

MWV (formerly MeadWestvaco) did just that. They traded their very traditional internal communication channels for an online platform that provides their 17, 500 employees worldwide with a discussion space, regardless of their place on the org chart or geographic location. “We’re building a global community of conversation,” says Susan Cleveland, Director of European Communications. As a result MWV is better able to share news, create enthusiasms, and harness employee insights to advance new initiatives.

Don’t just tell employees their voice matters. Prove it.

Engage The Individual
United we stand’ is the goal. But how do you get a diverse group of people on the same page, aligned with the organization’s goals?

This was a question Kodak faced. For the last decade the company has been in the midst of a transformation and today they have a workforce that includes a mixture of long-time employees, new employees, and employees who had left the company but returned.

Online dialogue has helped this group of individuals understand how they each fit into the overall scheme of an organization moving in a new direction. “[It’s] been a way to educate employees about the products, strategy and heritage of Kodak as well as help them feel a part of something larger – the big picture,” says Jeanne Eason, corporate communications. It’s built knowledge, and strengthened community.

When it comes to engagement strategies one size does not fit all. Individual needs must be met – whether it be for transparency, recognition, opportunities to collaborate or learn new skills. But there is a truism that applies to all. Employees must feel valued to add value. The easiest and most effective way to do this is through relevant and timely communication.

Provide employees with a platform where they can share information, recognize a colleague’s contributions, collaborate with and learn from each other.

Success Depends On A Company’s Ability To Rally Their Workforce
What would your organization look like if you involved employees in decisions that effect their life at work and the welfare of the company at large? What if you empowered employees to connect with each other, recognize one another for great work, and truly collaborate?

It would be a place where there is fluid communication, and an active exchange of ideas and experience. A place that drives business success, because when employees believe their voice counts, energy and innovation follows. It would be a place that attracts and retains the best employees and customers.

David Bator is Director of Customer Strategy & Marketing at TemboSocial (formerly PollStream). He is passionate about programs that move people, as is the team of Conversation Consultants that he leads. This group is responsible for helping clients leverage TemboSocial tools to interactively engage and share knowledge with employees and customers alike. For the last 13 years David has worked with the senior management of global companies to build marketing and communications programs that deliver extraordinary value for customers, employees and partners. Prior to joining TemboSocial, David was the Director of Partnerships & Alliances for Info-Tech Research Group and launched IDC Canada’s national conference business as Manager of Marketing and Sales Operations. www.tembosocial.com

Notes:
1 Blacksmith, N; Harter, J: (2011, October). Majority Of American Workers Not Engaged In Their Jobs [Electronic version]. Gallup Wellbeing, Retrieved January 17, 2012, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/150383/Majority-American-Workers-Not-Engaged-Jobs.aspx?utm_source=email-a-friend&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sharing&utm_content=titlelink.
2 How To Reduce Employee Turnover [Electronic version]. Wall Street Journal, Retrieved May 22, 2012, from http://guides.wsj.com/management/recruiting-hiring-and-firing/how-to-reduce-employee-turnover/.&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sharing&utm_content=titlelink.
3 Groysberg, B; Slind, M: (2012, June). Leadership Is A Conversation [Electronic version]. Harvard Business Review, Retrieved May 30, 2012 from http://hbr.org/2012/06/leadership-is-a-conversation/ar/1.

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Category: Recruit & Retain

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  1. Great article. Employees who experience a high level of enthusiasm for and involvement with their job and the company, commit to achieving organization goals through a better understanding of the business context and enhanced level of trust in leadership. Their thinking shifts from being disinterested in the well being of the enterprise to believing that management is making the right decisions for the organization and its employees – that employees have a role in the impact of those decisions, thereby increasing the level to which they feel valued and appreciated.

    • David Bator says:

      Carla Anne – Thank you for your interest in my article and especially your insight on employee engagement. I completely agree. One of the best ways to earn engagement is to involve your employees.

      Dan Pink writes about this beautifully in his book, Drive. He notes that what truly engages employees in the knowledge economy is the ability to connect with the people and resources they need to get their jobs done, the ability to master their role and the ability to earn purposeful recognition for that work.

      Organizations that involve their employees this way, regardless of their place on the org chart or the tasks that are part of their “9 to 5″ have an opportunity to truly engage their employees as collaborators. When you connect that to the big picture, you have the opportunity to earn something more than engagement. Employees that stay, are productive and are active in recruiting the next wave of top talent.

      Thanks for sharing.

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