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  • Writer's pictureSherry

SBCo Newsletter- November 2008

Employee Engagement is Critical and It’s OK to Start Small

The very first person to speak at the S. Benjamins Great Starts Breakfast, Leigh Branham, author of the successful and insightful book, The 7

Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, is currently finishing his latest book (working title: Lucky to Work Here). He shares some of his thoughts with us in the hope that they could make a difference to you in these challenging times.

In asking (and re-asking) his core question “What makes employees engaged and satisfied?” Leigh has come to the conclusion that the things that cause people to be satisfied and engaged probably don’t differ much across the generations. At the same time, his research has uncovered three sources of tension in the workplace that are inhibiting good communication and teamwork, and interestingly, those seem to reflect generational differences.

Three Sources of Tension:

  1. Loyalty: Millennials display what most Boomers and Gen X’ers consider a lack of loyalty. It’s relatively unique to the Millennial Gen Y’ers to look at jobs as short term consulting projects. This group tends to focus on lifetime employability versus wanting lifetime employment. And ias long as they are learning they are willing to stay.

  2. Feedback: Seven of ten Millennials say they need daily feedback, which is often viewed as absurd to Boomers and Gen X’ers.

  3. Work-life Balance: Millennials expect to be able to have work-life balance, and believe having a life is a right. They have no interest in “paying their dues.”

Start Small It’s hard to know what to do first to deal with all the employment and employee issues and advice we’re reading. How can we begin to create an employee engagement culture that will make a difference—at a time when we are all distracted by day-to-day numbers and not paying as  much attention as we should to the "softer" things. It can be uncomfortable to think about, and it clearly takes work. The only problem is that the workforce today is too diverse to continue to ignore these issues.

Leigh suggests starting with the following principles that will allow you to "break the code" and create employee engagement:

  1. Engagement practices need to be tailored to the individual level, and the deal you make with one employee may be different than the ones you make for others. Throw out the outdated and unreasonable policies.. It’s nearly impossible and not productive to try to treat everyone the same--treat them fairly but treating everyone the same is a recipe for disengagement.

  2. Then start small. Pick one group/department/team and introduce engagement practices to make that small section of your company an “employer of choice”. This way, you can focus on creating an engaged employee culture in your accounting department or IT or marketing, and learn as you go. Small wins here can demonstrate to the rest of the organization that making a commitment works to increase productivity and customer retention.  When other department heads see evidence of that success, they will want to emulate it.

  3. Listen to your workforce (do an engagement survey, third-party post-exit interviews, a series of focus groups, or all the above). If you really want  to start small, you can ask just a few question instead of a full-scale engagement survey. Keep it small so you can keep your commitment to follow up.

  4. Recognize that a major driver of employee engagement is the organization's leadership--how honest, consistent, competent, and caring your employees perceive your efforts as a leader to be. Another reality, created by Enron, Wall Street, and others, which we cannot ignore is that all employees are much more cynical today, and that seems to hold true across generations.

Is it worth it to try to make any portion of your organization an employer of choice with a strategy to create and sustain a more engaged work force? Leigh’s research overwhelmingly demonstrates that you can gain a terrific competitive advantage by leveraging each individual to optimum levels of engagement. Each person’s engagement level can be raised if you know the code to unlocking and unleashing each person's potential.

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