Employee Engagement is a “not-so-new” trend in HR. Everywhere you turn, there is a new study, white paper, article, or blog post on employee engagement. Some of the research shows employee engagement is up and some shows employee engagement is down. Most of the information does neither. The majority of the information provides ways to improve employee engagement.
After working in HR for years and now focusing on Organizational Development (OD), I am just as concerned about employee engagement as the next HR or OD professional. Employee engagement has been discussed, studied, and written about so much, that many people inside and outside of HR don’t know what to believe. For me, employee engagement comes down to this, treat people the way you want to be treated.
If you want grace extended to you in a particular situation then extend some grace. If you would want someone to be understanding then be understanding. Extend to everyone else what you would want someone to do for you. Treat people like human beings from the initial interview to the exit interview.
When people are treated decently, they respond in a positive manner. Happy employees make for productive employees. When people like what they do for a living, they come to work excited. When people work in a positive environment, they come to work excited. When people like what they do for a living and work in a positive environment, they become engaged. They are concerned about their coworkers, supervisor, and the company they work for.
Managers are responsible for creating a healthy work environment that will have a positive effect on their employees. Working in a healthy environment will either enhance a good experience or soothe a bad one. Regardless of whether the employee loves or hates their job it has a positive impact.
Treating people like human beings and creating a healthy work environment are not enough. Employees need to enjoy their work. Gen Yer’s are starting businesses left and right. They understand that in order to enjoy going to work, you have to love what you do.
Engaged employees are productive employees. Disengaged employees are unproductive employees. Which group do you want working for you? Both groups directly affect the bottom line. Do you want to end up in the red or black? People can only love what they do when you hire people that have a passion for the job you are filling. Before you make your next hire, remember the correlation between the engagement level of employees and the bottom line.
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In my next few posts, I’ll address the issue of employee loyalty: why employees aren’t loyal, what is employee engagement, and whether tracking employee engagement is useful.
Earlier this year, someone told me that a potential supervisor implied if they promoted this individual they expected this individual to stay with the company out of loyalty for promoting them. If this was 1983, I wouldn’t be surprised. But it’s not. In 2013, staying with a company out of obligation is a belief very few employees hold. Loyalty in the workplace today looks different from what it looked like 30 years ago. Companies are not as loyal to their employees as they were in 1983. In 2013, many companies are so loyal to the bottom line, they don’t have time to be loyal to their employees.
I’m not suggesting that supervisors think the worst of their employees. There are many employees that will stay with a company out of obligation, but that number is small. With everything that has happened in the world economy since 2008, employers shouldn’t expect many employees to be loyal. Times have changed, and each generation is less loyal than the one before it. Gen Xers are not the loyal employees that Baby Boomers were. I don’t think the notion of being loyal crosses the mind of Gen Yers.
During a government shutdown, government sequestration, mass layoffs, and Detroit,MI and Jefferson County, AL filing bankruptcy, who has time to be loyal? For years, employees have been forced to do more work with no increase in pay. With all of this going on, who is going to be loyal to their employer? When your livelihood is at stake, you’re not going to stay with a company just to be loyal.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with being loyal to a company. If your company treats you well, why not be loyal? On the other hand, being loyal out of a sense of obligation can be professional and — more importantly — financial suicide. Even if companies weren’t so self-absorbed, the world’s economic climate is such that it’s every man and woman for themselves.
In 2013, company loyalty does exist. But I wouldn’t suggest any supervisor to expect it. Finding loyal employees is difficult because there is so much dysfuntionality in today’s workplaces. It’s really as simple as this: if you want high employee retention, treat people right. Employees are loyal to companies when companies are loyal to employees. There’s no magic bullet for this, just plain ‘ole common sense.
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