How engaged are my employees? It’s a question that many HR executives face on a daily basis and one that has made its way to the C-suite. In fact, according to Deloitte’s 2014 Global Human Capital Trends research, 78 percent of business leaders rate engagement as urgent or important.
“Engagement may be a new buzzword, but the importance of having engaged employees is not new at all,” says Beverly Kaye, Ph.D., founder of Career Systems International and co-author or business best sellers ”Love ’Em or Lose ’Em“ and “Help Them Grow or Watch Them.
But more than likely, the recent spotlight on employee engagement shines brighter since Gallup reported a 70 percent disengaged workforce two years ago, which costs U.S. companies between $450 and $550 billion each year in lost productivity. Plus, there are plenty of statistics that support the benefits employee engagement brings to an organization. Gallup finds that companies with highly engaged employees have 21 percent higher productivity and 37 percent reduced absenteeism. It also has a direct effect on the bottom line: Hay Group reports that companies with engaged employees have 2.5 times more revenue than their counterparts with low engagement levels.
Probably what’s most surprising is that business leaders understand the power of engagement, but don’t have initiatives around it. In fact, according to research from ACCOR, 90 percent of leaders agree that an engagement strategy has an impact on business, but only 25 percent of them have one in place.
“There is certainly a knowing versus doing gap when it comes to engagement,” says Kaye. Through her years of research and delivering talent solutions to organizations that increase engagement and retention, the international best-selling author offers three proven strategies that can help close the engagement gap.
1Career opportunities. “If an employee can’t see a future in the organization’s future, then engagement is going to drop,” says Kaye. In fact, Towers Watson’s 2014 Global Workforce Study finds career advancement opportunities as the second top driver of employee retention behind salary.
In terms of career development, Kaye says there are five things that every employee wants, no matter the generation:
• Employees want managers to take the time to get to know them and understand their skill sets—and use them.
• The workforce wants to be challenged in their roles and have opportunities for growth. Without options for expanding skills or upward movement, there is little motivation for employees to be engaged in their work.
• Employees seek the ability to learn—from their jobs, their peers, and their managers. High potentials are inclined to leave their positions if they are facing stale work on a daily basis.
• Employees need performance feedback on a continual basis—not just once a year during the performance appraisal process. They need to hear that they are getting better or find out ways they can improve.
• No one wants to hear about company happenings via social media. The workforce wants to be informed by department leaders and managers. Plus, when it doesn’t come from management, misinformation can occur and spread like wildfire.
“Career development is a major piece of an engagement strategy,” says Kaye. Employees need their managers to demonstrate that they care about their career path. From her book “Love ’Em or Lose ’Em,” Kaye outlines five options for career development that can help increase engagement:
• Exploring options within the company
• Enriching the current position with learning and growth opportunities
• Realigning priorities