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
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
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
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
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.