The Power of Grateful Workplaces and Engaged Employees

What sets grateful workplaces apart from others? What impact do those environments have on employee engagement?

Especially now — while most of us are still working remotely — leaders need to ask themselves a question: Why are happy and engaged employees worth their weight in gold?

And then they need to go discover more gold.

If you’re a business owner, look around your company. If you’re in a leadership role within a corporation, look around your department. Are you using a critical eye to evaluate what’s going on behind the scenes with your employees? Know what is happening when they are not on a Zoom call? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to use your relationship skills and develop deeper, meaningful conversations. The kind of discussions that matter to them. And, ultimately, to the organization.

The Value of Appreciation

It’s amazing to see how showing appreciation and expressing gratitude affects people. With just two little words like “thank you” and “well done” we can make a real difference. In a report conducted by TINYpulse, 30,000 people were queried to uncover what makes for an engaged, happy workplace. The findings revealed that 70 percent of people rated their workplace as fun due to the appreciation and subsequent recognition. Yes, the validation received from leadership and peers made the work fun. Perks such as ping pong tables and free beer Fridays? Not so much.

Showing gratitude gives employees the support and recognition they want. It provides the encouragement to go above and beyond. In essence, appreciation and gratitude inspire people. Validation motivates them to be engaged and interested.

They Tell One Person, Who Tells Two People…

Even when times are good, developing a cadre of brand ambassadors is a great idea for any company. This is especially true for companies looking to extend their brand externally and reinforce it internally. Now, in times of turmoil, helping employees feel appreciated and included greatly increases the likelihood they’ll get involved. It also inspires them to more often go beyond the call of duty. Employees who feel valued also show a greater aptitude for collaboration. They are far more likely to spread the word of their great feelings about the organization. And they’re more likely to feel the work they do directly contributes to positive outcomes. 

It’s important to have positive communications like these run up, down, and sideways along the chain. This practice helps reinforce a workplace where open communications are part of the culture and practiced by everyone — even when we’re not all sitting in the same building.

And Then There’s the Downside

When employees do not feel appreciated nor included, feelings of disinterest in their employer may develop. Depending on the level and length of disengagement, the lack of appreciation often leads them to speak publicly in negative tones. That negativity, regrettably, easily spreads to any customers with whom disengaged employees may come into contact. These negative interactions can directly affect customer purchases, retention, and recommendations on company review sites such as Glassdoor.

Further, brands always need to be mindful of the speed at which information, especially bad news, travels. When an employee is frustrated enough to vent online, social media is not an employer’s best friend.

Grateful Workplaces: It’s Good Business

Organizations that promote cultures of positivity, camaraderie, collaboration, feedback, and good communications prosper. In fact, research by Gallup identified the nine business metrics most affected by high employee engagement. The top three factors that advance an organization’s brand image and fiscal health: Customer ratings, productivity and profitability.

On the less-positive side, a study published in the Harvard Business Review details a Gallup Poll survey that show disengaged workers had:

  • 37 percent higher absenteeism
  • 49 percent more accidents
  • 60 percent more errors and defects

These data points are strong indicators of disengaged employees. Even worse, perhaps: Unmotivated employees who don’t find satisfaction in their work. Nor do they have a positive outlook of their company. In a research project conducted by doctors at the University of California and University of Florida, participants who focused on the positive aspects of their life were tested against a comparison group who focused on feelings of irritation and dissatisfaction. As makes sense, the test group considered more positive were much happier, optimistic and more likely to demonstrate healthier habits. These feelings are not exclusive to one’s time away from work. In fact, they spill over into people’s work lives every day, affecting productivity and results.

With so many people working away from the office, organizations must give their employees reasons to be brand ambassadors. Perhaps even more important in today’s workplace? They must deliberate create grateful workplaces. Which means serving as positive role models by demonstrating appreciation and a high level of engagement themselves. 

 Want highly engaged employees? Harness the power of gratitude.


A version of this post originally appeared on HR Exchange Network.


#WorkTrends Recap: Turn Bad Bosses Into Inspiring Leaders

If you have ever walked out of the office at night, spirit sagging and already dread the next day, this episode is for you.

Vicky Oliver wrote her first book, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, to capture the interview advice she was giving job-seekers. With her own career in the advertising industry, five best-selling career-advice books, and decades of consulting work to draw from, she knows the best leaders engage with their teams, give people the power to fail, and avoid micromanaging.

“Workers are individual people with hopes and dreams, not impersonal drones,” Vicky reminded our listeners. Leaders who recognize that and create a vision everyone can embrace are the leaders we all want and need.

“When you care about the people who work for you, they return the favor by giving back,” Vicky shares.

Here are a few key points that Vicky shared:

  • Leaders are most powerful when they share their vision
  • Leadership is a privilege, not a right
  • People can be trusted to organize themselves
  • The most effective feedback focuses on the product, not the person

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:  

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT).

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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#WorkTrends Preview: Turn Bad Bosses into Inspiring Leaders

More than two-thirds of American workers are just putting in their time at their jobs. Their lack of engagement in the job or the organization can often be attributed to their boss’s poor leadership skills. Unless managers can provide inspiration and instill dedication, productivity will continue its downward dive.

Employees who perceive that their boss is disconnected emotionally from them will themselves become disengaged and unfocused.

Join #WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro and her special guest Vicky Oliver, bestselling author of Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots, at 1pm ET on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, as they discuss how leaders can better engage with employees and what behaviors to avoid that create disengagement.

Turn Bad Bosses into Inspiring Leaders

#WorkTrends Preview: Turn Bad Bosses into Inspiring LeadersJoin Meghan and Vicky on our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, Sept 20 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT.

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What are the basics of workplace decorum? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2: Why is giving people the freedom to fail so important? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q3: What are the effects of micromanaging? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. I invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed and our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community.

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Culture Leadership Charge – Values Operating System

What is your organization’s values operating system?

In today’s three-minute episode of my Culture Leadership Charge video series, I describe how every organization has values, just as every human has values. Some organizations’ values are all about results, others embrace a “service to others” environment, and some have a combination.

We see a wide range of values demonstrated in organizations, large and small, around the globe. Values are the foundation of an organization’s culture – for better or worse.

The challenge is that most leaders do not pay attention to the health of their work culture, whether they’re leading a small business or team or department or region or company or multi-national. In most organizations, the sole metric that leaders are held accountable for is results. It is rare for leaders to be held accountable for the quality of their work environment or for happy, engaged employees.

Yet where employees are happy and engaged – treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction – productivity grows.

You don’t “assume” that everyone in your organization knows their performance standards and delivers them without any discussions, right? Performance clarity and accountability requires formalized goals and targets, with metrics monitored closely, every day.

So, don’t “assume” that everyone in your organization knows how you want them to treat other people at work. Values clarity and accountability requires formalized values and behaviors, with interaction quality monitored closely, every day.

To ensure values are as important as results, you need a values operating system – an organizational constitution – that ensures everyone is treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction.

My Culture Leadership Charge series features short (two-to-three-minute) videos that describe proven culture leadership and servant leadership practices that boost engagement, service, and results across your work teams, departments, regions, and even your entire company.

Each episode’s “charge” is a challenge for everyone in your organization – not just leaders – to refine their behaviors and ensure everyone is treated respectfully at all times.

You’ll find my Culture Leadership Charge episodes and more on my YouTube and Vimeo channels. If you like what you see, please subscribe!

This article was originally published on The Purposeful Culture Group.

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Keeping Female Workers Engaged—and Why That Matters

It’s no surprise that women bring distinctive viewpoints, ideas, and insights to the workplace. But here’s the more shocking stat: Women lead men in terms of workplace engagement. In fact, 35 percent of female employees are engaged at work, compared with only 29 percent of male employees, according to Gallup’s 2017 report, “Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived.”

It’s common sense that employees who are engaged at work are more productive, enthusiastic, and committed to their jobs. Research even indicates that higher engagement is linked to greater profits and decreased turnover rates. Yet less than a third of all employees say they are engaged in their work.

So, what can companies do to keep female employees happy and productive at work? Here are five tactics to consider implementing.

  1. Train managers to cultivate employees’ potential. Having a female manager matters—employees with a female boss are six percentage points more engaged, on average, than those who report to a male supervisor, the Gallup survey found. Female managers excel at cultivating the potential of the people who report to them, helping them develop new skills and abilities. They also check in with their direct reports more frequently than male managers do—providing the critical feedback employees seek.

To increase engagement, train managers—male and female—to ensure that their direct reports feel cared for both professionally and personally. Managers who take the time to ask about an employee’s sick child or 5k run generate goodwill.

  1. Understand the “employee journey”

Marketers spend billions of dollars tracking the customer journey—identifying every touchpoint their company has with a customer and the “pain points” that drive customers away. The touchpoints that attract women, and the pain points that drive them away are often different than those that impact men, so understanding what works and what does not work for your female customers and prospects is important.

In her TED Talk, Diana Dosik, a principal at Boston Consulting Group, makes the case that companies would benefit from understanding the “employee journey” as well. By fully understanding how employees experience work—particularly your female employees—you’ll be able to fix the pain points that are preventing them from being more engaged, focused and, ultimately, more productive. This may mean providing lactation rooms for new mothers, or offering flex-schedules for female employees with school-age children.

  1. Increase communication with employees

As I’ve written before, communication is critical to improving employee morale.  Create a culture in which female employees are comfortable communicating with their managers. Managers should seek out employees’ opinions on the engagement strategies you are implementing; with employee buy-in, the tactics are more likely to succeed. Helping your female employees, in particular, to incorporate their passions, interests, and talents into their work will reap dividends in terms of employee engagement—and could also boost your bottom line.

  1. Focus engagement efforts on senior-level women

There is a lot of buzz about retaining women in their twenties and thirties when they’re deep in the child-rearing years. However, more attention needs to be placed on engaging high-level women managers; research shows that engagement drops among women as they rise in seniority within a company.

“Companies that get it right for [senior-level] women tend to get it right for everyone in the organization,” writes Claire Tracey, one of the authors of the BCG report, “The Rewards of an Engaged Female Workforce.” Addressing the issue, she explains, can help fix the culture for the entire company.

  1. Provide flexible work models to employees at all levels

Senior-level women who embrace flex time, telecommuting, and a results-oriented culture—and succeed—inspire the younger cohort of female employees, who can see more possibilities for themselves at the company in the future. That’s one of the reasons why, at organizations that demonstrate high levels of employee engagement overall, there is no gender gap; men and women are equally committed to their careers.

Output-based KPIs—which focus on whether the work gets done, not where it gets done—can help. Also, make reduced or part-time work an option for all employees—male and female.

In fact, many of the initiatives aimed at engaging your female employees will benefit your overall employee engagement rates. And that, in return, will boost morale, increase efficiency, and even bolster your company’s bottom line.

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Employee Advocacy = Engaged Employees

A great work environment with happy employees is the start for creating sincere and enduring employee advocates. When people experience a wonderful culture in action and believe in the reputation of their company, they become your most effective spokespeople.

Why Does it Matter?

There is a lot of research out there that supports the direct correlation between employee satisfaction and its impact on customer satisfaction.  When employees are engaged advocates, they will go the extra mile for the customer, seeking out alternate and better ways to deliver service that amazes and delights. These employees don’t mind spending extra time with a customer to ensure their complete satisfaction, has been met, and are more likely to set achievable expectations for customer service delivery and timing.

Additionally, employee advocacy humanizes your brand. It puts a face to the brick and mortar of your business and allows people outside the company to better identify with your people-driven mission. It’s like word-of-mouth advertising… a very powerful weapon in the war for customer satisfaction and their dollars.

What’s in it for Employees?

Empowerment allows employees to become stakeholders by having them take part in decision-making processes. This empowerment enables them to take responsibility for their role and manage their behaviors and outcomes.  A culture of trust allows people to do their job, autonomously. Employees want to create their own successes, and with that find greater satisfaction in themselves and with the culture around them.

Feedback is a powerful tool in the workplace. It enables people to see how they contribute to the bigger picture of the organization. It’s important for each employee to see how her specific role impacts the organization. Show employees, directly, how their work is improving customer retention, profitability, or the metric that is most closely related to their position. This will motivate them in their jobs, in attainable goals, and increase their engagement.

Skills and knowledge training provides the growth and expansion employees need to keep improving and advancing in their careers. Challenge them to find learning opportunities that can be applied to their jobs and allow them to put this new-found knowledge to work. The empowerment and satisfaction they can reap from this experience will encourage them to look forward to future learnings to continue growing their skills and knowledge.

Collaboration across an organization opens the door to team spirit and engages people at a more root level because they believe every employee is approachable for conversation. Being able to collaborate on projects with colleagues will increase employee engagement, and make the projects more satisfying and effective allowing employees to ideate, give peers feedback and bring solutions to the forefront. In other words, to take ownership.

Why You Need Advocates

Employees who are advocates for their organization cast a wider net not only inside the organization but externally, as well. They reach a larger audience and position themselves as the voice of the organization. They will increase your brand engagement with potential new customers and employees, which from a monetary value, can save companies dollars in advertising and marketing promotions. As engaged employees, advocates are tremendous agents and defenders of your company’s reputation, again positioning themselves as a voice for their employer. Further, research has shown that employee advocates can increase the stock value of organizations by over two and a half times versus organizations that do not support employee advocacy and engagement.

Creating Advocacy

Focus on your culture to understand how employees view the company. To truly understand how successful an advocacy program will work, you first need to understand what people are thinking. If you guess you may guess wrong and that could produce a myriad of consequences. Leadership needs to have the courage to ask, “What do you like and dislike about working here?” This information is gold to the wise employer. With this in hand, set out to better understand what your employees are seeing and that may even include how they view the leadership within the organization. Be prepared to leave your ego at the door, as the feedback may be a wake-up call for management, but if the goal is to create a better workplace, recognition of what works and what is failing miserably must be addressed.

Communication is key here. Employees are inspired by leadership that is open and authentic with communications. Strong leadership that has a clear idea of the company’s direction will be viewed much more favorably than a waffling leader that is out of touch with the company’s mission. When communications flow back and forth between leadership and the employee population, the likelihood of misunderstandings and mistakes lessens.

Measure the results. Whenever possible, track the metrics that will gauge the outcomes of employee advocacy. For example, if increased customer retention is the goal, design a program to determine what a successful outcome will be. Communicate this goal to your employees, then provide them with the resources and opportunities to explore and expand on their knowledge and skills in support of the goal. By tracking the data, you can adjust how you communicate and incentivize your employee advocacy initiatives for future goals.

Trust and Opportunity

Organizations need to believe in their employees and want to help them to promote the organization, but first they need to give them good reasons. Pressuring them rather than encouraging them will not work. Advocacy needs to flow naturally for it to be believable. Leadership can, however, empower employees with knowledge and tools to promote the benefits. With a minimal amount of direction, companies can offer opportunities for employees to exercise their bragging rights in a public, social way. I know of companies that had business cards printed for each employee so if that person was interacting in a social setting and felt the opportunity was right, they could hand their business card to potential new customers and even use it as a referral card for job seekers.

Of course, having a set of “Do’s and Don’ts” is helpful so employees understand what would fall outside the parameters of advocacy. No organization can tolerate proprietary information being shared with people outside the company, so establishing parameters that address items such as this, is important.

The Dividends

Essentially, the value of having employees who act as brand advocates offers a value next to priceless. What better way to market your organization, espouse the features of your products and spread the word in a social manner that is much less expensive than traditional marketing and advertising.

To me, employee advocacy is when employees look forward to pitching the benefits of their organization and do it because they’re excited and energized, not because they’re specifically prompted by management. What sets these advocates apart from other employees is they’re engaged with their employer and find their workplace environment a satisfying atmosphere where communication and opportunity to grow and collaborate occur with consistency.

And most importantly, organizations need to give employees a reason to advocate for the company. An engaged employee advocate is the best bet you have for increasing customer satisfaction, and to experience business prosperity in an organic manner that is natural and unprompted. And the best aspect is, it’s one of the best methods for retaining valuable talent and attracting more of the same.

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6 Ways Leaders Can Excel at Engaging Employees

Much has been written on how organizations can engage their employees more successfully and create a competitive advantage. The advice offered tends to be of a program nature: company-wide initiatives promulgated from above that all functions “down below” are expected to participate in.

My thirty-three plus years of leadership experience suggests a different way of looking at how to “hook” every employee in the goals and strategy of the organization. People relate more to other people, not “corporate programs” offered by human resources or business planning.

This requires that every team leader take personal responsibility to see that the employees who report to them are pumped up and engaged. I didn’t wait for an “employee engagement program” to help. I chose to lead in a very specific way that led to turned-on employees and constantly improving performance.

Here are the simple things that worked and still work for me.

  1. Ensure every employee clearly understands the strategic game plan of the organization. They can’t contribute if they are hazy about what results are expected.
  1. Define the specific role of every person in delivering the strategy. This is where detail matters. Everyone needs to know EXACTLY what to do day-in and day-out to execute on the chosen company direction.
  1. Equip them with the tools to perform their responsibilities: training, systems and processes. A mundane point, perhaps (“Everyone knows this is important!”) but one that is often forgotten. It’s a basic hygiene factor for engagement. They won’t engage if they don’t have the fundamentals to do their job.
  1. Constantly – WEEKLY – let them know how they’re doing. Real honest feedback (and help to allow them to improve) is essential.
  1. Be in their workplace WITH them. If they know you are there to help them succeed they will engage with you on an emotional level which is what you need to move the yardsticks forward. People who intellectually understand and agree with what is required are motivated to DO something only if the are “all in” emotionally.
  1. Fight for them internally. Protect them from the internal politics and b.s. that gets in the way of them doing their job. If they know you have their back they will go the extra distance to perform.

Enhancing employee engagement requires individuals to emotionally connect with the goals of the organization and execute accordingly to achieve them. Look to leaders, not corporate programs to create the energy necessary to make it happen.


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WorkTrends Preview: Simple Ways to Measure Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is all the buzz, and rightfully so. When employees are engaged, they adopt the vision, values and purpose of the organization where they work.

Engaged employees are passionate contributors, innovative problem solvers, and stunning colleagues. Plus, high-performing employees want to work in places like that and smart employers want to cultivate that kind of environment.

Join us for #WorkTrends as our guest Leila Zayed from Best Companies Group addresses the importance of employee engagement and some practical ways to measure it in an organization.

This conversation will help employers discover ways to proactively engage employees and retain talent—and of course, we’d love to have you there!

#WorkTrends Event: Simple Ways to Measure Employee Engagement

#WorkTrends Logo Design

Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, April 13 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Host Meghan M. Biro as she talks about how to measure employee engagement and why it’s important for your company.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, April 13 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT

Immediately following the radio show, the team will move to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. We invite everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What are the biggest benefits of employee engagement? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q2: What are innovative ways to measure employee engagement? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q3: What are some creative ways to increase employee engagement? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Until then, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. Feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!

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Onboarding Is The Holy Grail Of Employee Retention, Engagement and Productivity

How does effective onboarding relate to retention, engagement and customer satisfaction? Simply put, in every way.

Onboarding is a widely misunderstood practice. Some companies believe it’s a handshake on day one with a pile of papers for the new hire to complete. In actuality, great onboarding begins at the first touchpoint in the relationship. This means, the first time the company representative engages with a job candidate, the onboarding begins. Further, should this touchpoint result in a hire, it should carry through to the first day of employment and all the way through the employee’s tenure.

Onboarding Is Not Brain Surgery

I read many a horror story about how job candidates and employees, alike, are treated like a commodity rather than contributors. This mistreatment stems from the apathy and disregard many experience when starting a new job. Lack of communication and the feeling of being lost among a crowd of other disregarded co-workers are commonly heard remarks. Without a connection to help employees feel part of the organization, disengagement often times results in a lack of productivity because employees don’t understand how their role contributes to the company’s mission, vision and values.

According to researchers at the Abderdeen Group, 62 percent of companies that have a solidified onboarding program experience faster time-to-productivity with 54 percent claiming to have better employee engagement. After reviewing these stats, it’s clearly counter-productive for companies to forego having an onboarding program, yet there are still many brands who have chosen to forego a structured onboarding program.

We Don’t Know Where To Start

For leadership to truly appreciate the value of an onboarding program, they first need to understand what they’re missing. An analysis of relevant employment data is a good start. Tracking the following metrics is advisable for businesses of all sizes:

  • time-to-hire
  • time-to-productivity
  • client retention
  • referrals
  • contributions to problem solving
  • synergy with co-workers
  • promotability, and
  • tenure

In today’s business world, there’s no excuse to not track employee data of this type. There is no shortage of systems that enable organizations to track and review the numbers at regular intervals so there’s really no excuse not to be doing so. But here’s where the tough part comes into play. Once you have the data, how do you interpret it and what should be done?

  • First, you need to decide what you want to accomplish. Decide on what success and failure will look like; this helps steer the understanding of the data and guide your action.
  • Second, organize and formalize when you’ll review and interpret the data. Incorporate user-friendly technology that allows easy input or seamless conveyance of the metrics. If you plan to use a manual input methodology, be warned, this may lend itself to human error or worse, lack of compliance to follow through on the input.
  • Third, be consistent. Set a schedule for when you’ll review the data and stick to it.
  • Fourth, have a plan of action on how to adjust for changes. The data may not present the results you wish to see. You’ll need to be prepared for this by having a plan-of-action to achieve what goals your organization wants. For example, initiating short, informal performance reviews more often during the first year to maintain open lines of communication can make a significant difference in retention and employee engagement. Conversely, the results may come in favorably, so be prepared to capitalize on that information and take it to the next level.
  • Fifth, be patient. It takes time to gather significant data and more time to look for noteworthy trends.

So What’s Really In It For The Company?

In a word… everything. Take customer service, for example. Companies with unproductive customer representatives inevitably lose market share due to a decrease in customer loyalty and/or gain a bad reputation as a service provider. According to Gallup, when employees are engaged, they will be more productive and more likely to experience good relations with customers. This behavior can be supported by getting off on the right foot with new employees. Set the stage for how their customer involvement is pivotal to the company. Ensure all employees understand the mission, vision and values of the organization and are able to convey this sentiment to customers (by the way, customers should also be onboarded.) The same factors are in play regardless of the industry or occupation. Keep the lines of communication open and keep “recruiting” your employees to show them how they are valued and always strive to align personal goals with the company’s. Adding these simple communications and tactics can be the difference maker in both employee and customer retention and satisfaction.

Knowing that great onboarding leads to a more productive and engaged employee, which in turn creates happier and more productive workers, should be an established initiative for all companies. Unfortunately, there are still too many organizations that have not adopted this train of thought, even though the research and even common sense supports it.

It really comes down to this… everyone wants to feel valued.

Image credit: Gratisography

Put the Employee Back in Employee Engagement

Last check, engagement was still the hottest buzz word in the HCM world. Ask ten different HCM professionals what “employee engagement” means, and you will likely get answers that include words or phrases such as organizational commitment, job satisfaction, happiness, discretionary effort, or “likely to recommend us as a good place to work.” Unfortunately, all too many organizations have strayed from the path. A look at just the twelve most popular engagement survey providers reveals wide and varied definitions of engagement – no wonder we are all so confused.

The fact of the matter is that most “engagement” surveys either do not measure engagement at all, or lump so many unrelated things in that the final engagement score that is tabulated no longer is a measure of “engagement” at all. Given this scenario, maybe organizations should revert back to calling them “climate” or “employee” surveys.

“Engaged” employees know what is expected of them in their roles, are provided opportunities for growth and development, feel supported by their colleagues (managers and supervisors) and are given autonomy to perform tasks. An engaged employee finds their work to be psychologically meaningful, feel a sense of purpose, and have a belief that the work they do makes a difference.

At Aberdeen, we believe that engagement initiatives should be about aligning individuals with the mission and priorities of the organization in order to drive business results. This strategy, however, requires an intimate understanding of your employees, what motivates them, what skills they possess, and what roles they fill, all in an effort to help identify the human drivers of business results which are most critical to your organization. Engagement is not about what drives your aggregate engagement scores; rather it is about each and every employee and how their collective efforts make or break the success of your organization.

No matter what definition or approach is taken, it is imperative to look at engagement at all levels in an organization: organizational (macro), segment/sector level (meso), and at the department/individual level (micro). While measurement at the micro level is not always feasible or reliable due to sample size or the lack of resources, organizations still need to direct their efforts to increase engagement to each and every individual in the organization.

Business results are impacted not only by increases in revenue, but also by reductions in expenses. People-related expenses are typically only thought of as costs for salary, benefits and training, but if we look at this through an engagement lens, companies have an opportunity to save on people-related expenses such as the cost of turnover, the impact of knowledge loss on achieving strategic goals, and even stress and mental health related medical claims. Leaders and managers have to do a better job at making sure their employees know that they truly see them as our most valuable asset not just in their words but in their actions too.

Here are a few recommendations for employee engagement that we should all keep our eyes on:

  • Measure why people stay, what motivates them to perform, what they value
  • Personalization of engagement action plans
  • Employees owning their engagement
  • Measuring engagement over the employee lifecycle – hire engaged workers
  • Focus on more than just the drivers but a shift to focus on the outcomes – track and monitor employee engagement in conjunction with other outcomes such as customer satisfaction levels or turnover

These days, employee engagement isn’t just a “nice to have;” it’s critical to organizational success. How else can you help your employees connect meaningfully with their work and with the company as a whole?

Resources: “The Age of Employee Engagement

This post was first published on on September 17, 2014.

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Engaging Top Talent: Employee Perks Just Aren’t Enough Anymore

There is a movement developing in the corporate world that many businesses still don’t understand: Consumer grade communication. Although its growth has been so silent many don’t realize how widespread it is.

It arrived in the U.S. via apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, but it’s pervading other countries as well: Kik is very popular in Canada (among other countries), China has WeChat, and India has Nimbuzz. All told, the number of users is well into the billions.

But what do social networks, apps, and messaging have to do with recruiting top talent and engaging current employees? As it turns out, quite a bit.

A recent survey by Alfresco Software found that many employees use consumer-grade tools to collaborate and communicate instead of enterprise solutions. This is sometimes referred to as “shadow IT,” and the practice is especially prevalent among Millennials.

A full 71 percent of Millennials say they aren’t happy with the collaboration tools they’re given to work with. A little more than half say they instead use their own, consumer-grade tools, like personal email or public document sharing—and many do so without much thought for security considerations. In fact, most do so without the IT department even knowing.

Consumer messaging apps are just starting to have an impact on internal business communication; Slack, for example, quickly became one of the most popular apps in Silicon Valley this year. And here’s where the twist happens with regard to employee attraction and retention—making room for the tools people rely on outside the office can be a significant trump card when it comes to attracting top candidates, as well as keeping your existing team happy.

More established benefits like gym memberships, free lunches, and childcare for company events still have value, but Millennials want better work-life integration, and they put a high value on a collaborative culture—which means they’re looking for the tools that will enable that to happen.

How to make that happen? Well, here are a few consumer grade communication considerations you should keep in mind when evaluating new enterprise solutions.

Great Talent Expects Great Design

One thing people aren’t any longer is patient. Slow loading sites or poorly designed apps that impede efficient workflow will quickly become yesterday’s tech. Some things to consider when thinking about UX are:

  • How many clicks does it take to share a file for multiple people to work on?
  • How long does it take to find the last bug fixes?
  • Is a service reliable, or are the first 10 minutes of every call or videoconference spent fumbling with technology?

These are the usability issues that consumer-grade communication tools have sought to fix, and is what puts them front and center as a potential employee perk. Millennials, in particular, are used to a solid user experience as a foundation of their messaging apps and other consumer-grade software, and they expect that ease-of-use to be a priority for employers, potential and otherwise, as well.

Prioritize Efficient Communication Above All Else

We’ve all been in that meeting. Several people stuck waiting while someone else shows up late, only to find out their video is fine but their audio isn’t connecting, thereby wasting everyone’s time trying to figure out what’s wrong. Or the person leading the meeting starts with a completely different agenda than the rest of the room, because—ooops!—the updated version never did get emailed out to the group.

The ugly truth about meetings is that there are too many of them. They cost billions of dollars, and by some estimates they waste as much as 15 percent of an entire organization’s time each year.

Improved digital communication can change this, but a team can’t collaborate effectively on a document by emailing it back and forth–it simply isn’t an option. That kind of inefficiency is becoming so outdated that it’s as likely to turn off your current employees as it would anyone looking into your company to determine if you are a good fit for them.

Provide Continuous Feedback (and Analytics)

Millennials have been criticized for needing instant gratification. There may be some truth to that generalization, but the criticism misses the point: That necessary and continuous feedback drives their need for continued learning and development.

Some feedback can be delivered through one-on-one meetings and mentorship from a manager, but there’s also a need for intelligent analytics. Companies are chasing data to increase overall productivity, but how many arm their employees with data to help them increase their own efficiency?

With consumer-grade communication already being used in the workplace—often without the knowledge of the IT department—many companies are seeing the need to embrace change, and embrace popular consumer apps and platforms. Some of these services, like LinkedIn Work and Facebook for Work, are also on a path to adding enterprise-level security to their already-familiar messaging platforms.

Finding ways to help Millennials bringing the very best new employees on-board, and in keeping current employees not only happy, but learning, developing, and contributing to the company’s bottom line. What about you? What trends in collaboration are you seeing your top talent care most about?

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