Talk Is Cheap but Reaps Great Employee Engagement Rewards


Attracting and retaining talent is a top concern in an increasingly tight labor market. If organizations want to attract new employees and hold on to the ones they have, they need to create an engagement ecosystem, and communication is part of the cohesive glue that’ll get good people to stick around. 

Companies that foster a culture of engagement can outperform their peers by keeping employees with the organization longer, according to Rebecca Ray, executive vice president at The Conference Board. Ray is also executive director of The Engagement Institute, a joint venture of The Conference Board, Deloitte Consulting, Mercer Sirota, ROI Institute, and The Culture Works. 

Various ingredients are needed for effective engagement, such as establishing a comprehensive employee value proposition, training managers, communicating with employees, and increasing diversity in hiring, Ray told Bloomberg Law. 

It’s a lot for companies to take on, but "when the pain is so great that they can’t compete, then changes will happen," Ray said. 

Top-performing companies are more likely to have a formal EVP program that maps out the different career stages of employees, according to the DNA of Engagement, a study from The Engagement Institute. 

Organizations need to examine what is most important to their employees and work it into their EVP, according to Amanda Popiela, researcher, human capital, at The Conference Board. "One size will not fit all," she told Bloomberg Law. 

Eight Factors Employees Want

When people choose a new job or consider whether they want to stay in an existing job, eight factors tend to drive their decision making, according to Bruce Tulgan, founder of RainMakerThinking, a management training and consulting company. 

"We call them the ‘dream job’ factors," Tulgan told Bloomberg Law. The items on the list are: 

  • performance-based compensation,
  • supportive leadership,
  • role and responsibilities,
  • location and workspace,
  • scheduling flexibility,
  • training and development,
  • relationships at work, and
  • some autonomy and creative freedom.

"Most workers today—regardless of generation—assume that most employment relationships will be relatively short-term and transactional," Tulgan said. This puts a lot of pressure on employees to work harder than ever, learn new skills, and adjust to ongoing organizational changes, he added. 

Companies can ease employees’ stress by offering them more control over their schedule, location, or even how they dress. 

Communication Is Critical

Training managers to have regular conversations with their direct reports is one way to stay attuned to employee needs and concerns, Ray said. 

"This is their most important job; this is how we help our employees," she added. While it’s imperative to accomplish the organization’s objectives, leaders and managers have options available for how the desired outcomes are achieved. "There’s a lot of things that we can do" in terms of how accommodating management can be while still getting things done, she said. 

Tulgan also emphasized the importance of good managerial communication. 

"When managers maintain high-quality one-on-one dialogues with their direct reports, they almost always increase employee performance and morale, increase retention of high performers and turnover among low performers, and achieve significant measurable improvements in business outcomes," he said. 

Organizations don’t provide enough training in this area despite the benefits they can reap by improving managerial communication with employees, he said. "Things go much better when managers consistently make expectations clear and provide candid feedback for every individual, every step of the way."

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