‘Employee Engagement’ – you may want to brush that off as just another HR buzzword, but the truth is that unless your employees are engaged its doubtful you are getting the most from them. If you’re an employee you can confirm that actually: the less into your company you are, the less productive and into your work you are going to be, even if you go through the motion and ‘get it done’. At a time when economists (who have their own set of buzzwords) are worrying about ‘productivity’, employee engagement is probably something worth considering.
That’s why a new study by Aon called Inside the Employee Mindset caught my eye. The company surveyed employees of U.S. companies to get an idea of ‘what makes an employer stand out’ – really what differentiates a run of the mill employer from one that offers what they call a ‘fun, flexible workplace’. As I write this, I can kind of feel the collective eye-roll from employers across North America, and across the globe for that matter. After all, its not really a fun, flexible economic landscape these days. Its not a a fun, flexible labor market either. ‘People should just be happy to have jobs’ is one popular point of view- but it’s a short-sighted one. The reality is that no matter what goes on in the economy, there is always going to be a war for the best talent, and the best talent is what helps companies succeed in challenging times. So standing out as good employers might be a sensible thing for companies to do.
Three things stand out as important to employees as making a workplaces stand out (in a good way):
1) ‘Recognize my achievements and provide career development opportunities’
2) ‘Create an experience that’s different from the rest’
3) ‘Communicate completely and honestly with me – it shapes how I view my experience’
Getting those things to happen can come from different a lot of different initiatives, but one thing that keeps coming out in the study is the idea of ‘rewards’ or ‘recognition’. Most people would like to see happen through better pay, but it could also come through a more flexible workplace or through other benefits. Thirty seven percent of employees in companies that they did rank as ‘fun’ cited a flexibility as a differentiator at their employer compared to others.
What causes employees to roll their eyes is the disconnect between what their employers say is important and what they see as their actual priorities. The big employer buzzword is ‘teamwork’, followed by ‘customer satisfaction’. Ask employees though, and they say that their organizations’ priorities could best be characterized by words like ‘business performance’ and ‘financial matters’. Fair enough maybe, but the gap between what they say and what they do is not exactly building employee engagement.
Times are challenging, and no one can fault employers from focusing on the bottom line. Finding, training and then replacing employees is pretty expensive though – so they might do well to remember that keeping people happy and keeping the company profitable could well go hand in hand.