Employee Engagement: A Burning Platform?

The current unemployment numbers have produced an abundance of stories in the media on what needs to be done to create jobs. A little math suggests that if we have 9.2% of people currently not working that must mean 90.8% are. What is the future for this latter group and the companies that employ them?

Here is a prediction: The economy will come back. The best employees will then have an abundance of new job opportunities. They will take those opportunities unless there are compelling reasons to stay put. The companies who have neglected their employees will lose.

According to the Gallup organization which regularly polls workers about how they feel about their jobs, the news is not good. In a recent New York Times article Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, authors of  The Progress Principle, wrote: “When people don’t care about their jobs or their employers, they don’t show up consistently, they produce less, or their work quality suffers.” Gallup estimates that disengaged workers results in $300 billion annually in lost productivity.

In his landmark book, Good to Great, Jim Collins states: “Your people are not your greatest asset – the right people are!” So if your organization is committed to retaining its best people, here are three time tested principles to keep them engaged:

1)      MONEY: We all need to pay our bills and support our families. Very few of us escape life’s economic realities. Those who have recently been laid off can attest to that! A good financial package demonstrates a sense of fairness, provides a sense of comfort and security and, therefore, is a significant deterrent to moving on.

2)      COMMUNITY: Most human beings have a need for belonging as evidenced by the fact that people cluster in cities or towns. A workplace that recognizes that need and seeks to create a true sense of community is very motivating. It means the organization is committed to a culture that encourages open communication, recognition and support. When a person truly looks forward to going to work and collaborating with team mates, it takes a very special offer to entice them away.

3)      MEANING: The feeling that what we do matters comes from the belief that our work is important. All of us want to know that our existence has value and, for many of us, our work provides one of the best and most visible ways to express that value. Smart companies and good leaders frequently acknowledge, celebrate and reward people for their contribution. A sense of purpose, however, is a very personal experience. This was expressed in the story of two laborers who were asked what they were doing. One answered with a puzzled look, “I’m laying bricks.” The other gazing upwards responded, “I’m building a cathedral!”

Why might this attention to employee engagement be so timely? One pressing reason is that performance pressures generated by the global economy are leading every organization to measure the efficiency of all resources, especially human resources.

I had the pleasure at one time to speak to a large convention of the Hudson’s Bay Company based in Canada. It was there that I met David Crisp, the company’s Vice President of Human Resources. Subsequently, David participated in the survey that provided the foundation for my book, The Eagle’s Secret. David’s comments were so striking that I included them in the book. Here’s what he said:

“The true success story is that of the individual who is responsive to issues, smart with their choices, and conscientious on follow-through – consistently taking action to move forward through life. Because millions do this to a greater or lesser degree, the world advances and individual greatness becomes possible.”

About David McNally

David McNally, CEO & President of TransForm Corporation
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