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The Employee Engagement Gap: It May Be Taking a Bite Out of Your Bottom Line

November 2010 (SmartPros) The Great Recession put pressure not only on top management at companies struggling to survive but also on employees further down the line. These are the people businesses depended on -- and still depend on -- to take up the slack and keep the organization on track.

Unfortunately, an extended period of asking staff to “do more with less” has had a serious consequence: Many professionals are feeling unappreciated and no longer engaged in their work.

Reflective of this development, 37 percent of workers polled for a recent Robert Half study, Workplace Redefined: Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change, said they feel they have not been fairly compensated for having assumed a greater workload during the downturn. This kind of dissatisfaction can greatly affect a company’s ability to meet productivity goals, offer quality customer service, complete initiatives on time and on budget, and prepare for new business opportunities – in short, nearly everything a business needs to do.

It seems clear that companies have to do more in creating and maintaining motivated teams that are invested in the outcome of their work. Businesses wanting to avoid or turn around the employee engagement gap can benefit from efforts in the following key areas:

Management’s interest in staff well-being
Plenty of firms use the motto, “Our employees are our greatest asset,” but few consistently follow up with supportive action. What is your department doing to make staff members feel valued as individuals?

You can start by doing your best to get to know the people on your team so you understand their career goals and personal needs. Offering programs that support work/life balance is a positive step you can take that shows you care about employee well-being. Options such as flexible schedules and telecommuting opportunities can help people juggle work and personal demands and typically boost job satisfaction and motivation.

Also solicit ideas from employees on ways to improve your department. Consider formal surveys or informal discussions. Just be sure that if you tell staff, “You can come to me anytime with questions and concerns” that your door isn’t constantly closed and that you return e-mail and phone calls on related matters promptly.

Candid personal communication
Employees also want to be kept in the loop. It’s hard for them to be engaged in a company and their work if they’re not aware of key business developments and their personal role in those developments. The more people feel a part of the firm and its future, the more connected they will be to their jobs.

This means it’s crucial to provide updates on the organization’s financial performance as well as operational goals and strategies. Beyond written communication, hold as many group face-to-face discussions on these topics as possible. This information sharing can help to form a greater connection with employees, especially if you encourage questions or ideas they may have on the topics at hand.

Opportunities to build skills and advance
Most professionals won’t be satisfied working in the same position with the same – or even more – responsibilities indefinitely. Employees want to continue learning and assuming new challenges. People who are building skills and advancing are less likely to feel disengaged in their jobs than those who sense they are underutilized.

Support professional development through programs such as online training, mentoring, tuition reimbursement and cross-training. Also promote from within whenever possible so employees see that hard work is recognized and can lead to growth opportunities.

Support for risk-taking and new ideas
Another way to boost employee engagement is by allowing staff to take ownership of their work and letting them know it’s safe – and encouraged, in fact – to think innovatively and be straightforward in voicing their ideas. Let them follow through with implementing their recommendations whenever practical. If a proposal doesn’t go as well as anticipated, treat it as a learning experience. By showing you trust employees, they are likely to develop the same commitment to you and the firm in return.

Finally, make sure you take notice of and reward your team’s individual and group achievements. Provide bonuses and raises when feasible, but remember that most professionals also have an inherent need to hear that their work matters to the organization and that leaders see value in their contributions. Offer personal words of thanks when employees go above and beyond in their jobs.

Perhaps the easiest way to look at employee engagement is this: the more you are engaged in supporting your staff, the more engaged they will be in producing excellent work.

Accountemps is the world’s first and largest temporary staffing service specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 360 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and offers online job search services at

2010 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved.

Source: Accountemps

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