Employee Engagement Lacking but Can Be Improved

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By Genevieve Douglas

Feb. 23 — Employers are failing at making meaningful improvements when it comes to effectively engaging employees, but there are several steps they can take to right the ship, HR consultants said Feb. 23.

“Organizations have struggled with engagement pretty much forever,” Steve Boese, co-founder of consulting and advisory firm H3HR Advisors, told attendees of a webinar sponsored by consulting firm Globoforce. According to Boese, the percentage of employees who report themselves as “highly engaged” has remained at only 30 percent for years, despite continuing efforts to “move the needle.”

If employers can’t move this level of engagement, “perhaps we need to change the conversation,” Boese said. For example, he said, employers often underestimate what basic benefits and small gestures can do for employee engagement and productivity.

The basics of engagement involve fair, equitable and transparent compensation and benefits and clearly articulated company vision and values, Boese said. Employees also seek work/life initiatives, family and parental leave, philanthropy and financial wellness programs.

How to Disengage

On the other hand, Boese added, small things can also be contributing to why employees leave organizations, such as:

  • a lack of professional and personal development opportunities or continuous learning programs;
  • a lack of connection from what they do to the organization’s overall mission and goals;
  • a poor relationship with the team or manager;
  • a lack of trust in senior leadership; and
  • no recognition for contributions.
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    ‘Employee First' Model

    The “employee first” model of engagement is a good place for employers to start revising how they recruit, engage and retain employees, Lynette Silva, senior recognition strategist for Globoforce, told webinar attendees. “We must treat each other with respect, because that is how the work gets done,” she said.

    According to Silva, for every 10 percent increase in employees reporting recognition for their work, their organizations have an equivalent 3 percent increase in retention and a 2 percent increase in engagement. “This is where managers play a critical role in how to recruit and retain happy, productive employees,” she said.

    Boese advised that to improve engagement, HR should:

  • make HR service and support as seamless as possible;
  • offer healthy, high-quality food and snacks, and make them as affordable as possible;
  • assign every new hire a mentor;
  • define clear and specific expectations for what success looks like in any job; and
  • give people autonomy and control over how, where and when they work.
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    Employers should aim for a work environment that makes the work interesting and meaningful, and creates a collegial atmosphere, Silva added.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.com

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com