5 Ways to Engage Your Workforce Now

Employee engagement is one of those popular HR buzz terms that has been increasing in popularity and appearance over the last several years showing up in board meetings, executive offsites, and HR People departments everywhere.  This term, though somewhat ubiquitous, is still quite vague in its definition and application, because the reality remains, despite all of the buzz around employee engagement, 70% of the US workforce is disengaged (Gallup).  That is 3 out of every 4 people spending 75% or more of their waking hours in a lackluster environment apathetic to the contribution they are making in their lives.  This disengagement costs US businesses over $550 BILLION dollars each and every year.  Here are 5 ways your company can decrease that cost and increase your employee engagement now:

1.Get clear on your Employment Brand Promise…then Keep It:

Your customers will never love your company as much as your employees.  Want raving fans of your product, commodity, goods or services?  Then start by creating raving fans among your employees.  Just like it is imperative that you get clear on what your customers are getting from you, you must be clear on what you are providing to your employees.  And no, a paycheck does not cut it.  Neither does referencing an exhaustive list of perks and benefits nor is it some quasi unspecific HR speak like “opportunities for advancement.”  This means you get crystal clear on who your company is, why you do what you do, the specific DNA of those that do well in your company’s culture and environment and what exactly your employees can expect by joining your tribe.  These clear set expectations will lay out what’s unique about working at your company.  It is honest, giving the pros and cons, and challenges and opportunities.  It avoids buzz language and gets real.  Your employees will find out what your business is truly about eventually.  It is better for you both to know if there are any deal breakers before you spend all those dollars hiring someone, only to have them leave a few months later.  Get this right and you will attract those you want, repel those you don’t and everything else you do will simply be designing the ways to keep this promise.

2.Capture their Hearts:

If you treat your employees like they are a cog in a wheel, an FTE, employee number or headcount, that is exactly what you will get.  If you want inspired humans who will work towards your company’s goals with their blood, sweat, tears and whole heart, then you must treat them like a whole a human being with thoughts, feelings, ideas, dreams and a whole rich life that exists outside of their job description. This begins by making sure your employee’s are inspired by what you do.  Does their life purpose match up with what your company is all about?  At their core, people are ultimately fulfilled, not by money (though sometimes it seems so), nor by title or prestige, but by feeling like they are contributing to something bigger than themselves and knowing that “something” lines up with their life’s purpose.  Don’t expect they can draw the line by themselves, you will need to uncover this in your recruitment and hiring practices. If you can help them draw this line, you will have their hearts and see it every day on their faces, in their work and in your company’s performance.

3. Lead with Alignment and Communication, then do it some more:

Expectations can ruin relationships, especially if the two parties differ on what exactly those expectations are.  But expectations are also impossible to avoid, so alignment from attraction to hiring to on-boarding to development and coaching is paramount to employee retention and your company’s success.  Alignment is ensuring both parties understand and agree with the expectations.  The vehicle for obtaining and delivering this alignment and communication remains steadfast in the hands of your leaders.  Great companies and great leaders are not afraid to over-communicate. And if your chosen leaders cannot do this, then it is time to question whether they should be leaders in the first place.  Alignment and communication happens in the one to ones between leader and employee. And research show that employees need to receive feedback at a minimum every 10 days. Your people will stay or go based on the leader you have provided them.  Annual employee reviews have been replaced by weekly one on one’s.  And regularly pulsing your employees through feedback channels like quarterly surveys, 360 reviews and employee net promoter scores are proving that employee engagement and happiness directly drive your company’s success.

4. Make their Strengths your Strengths:

Gallup StrengthsFinder co-founder, Donald Clifton asked, “what would happen if we focused on what is right with people instead of what is wrong with them?” In an effort to maximize profits, improve productivity and increase efficiencies, corporations have inadvertently continued to operate by creating boxes of what they think will work and then trying to make employees fit into those boxes. This analog way of thinking is based on the premise that theoretically anyone can become good at anything.  The problem is that scientific research and sociological studies tell us that this is simply not true.  The reality is, no one is “well rounded,” not a one of us.  Each and everyone one of us have unique talents that allow us to excel at some things and not at others.  People are not products and trying to create uniformity among your employees will only make them miserable and you frustrated.  More and more companies who have made this connection are providing levers like Gallup Strengths Finders and Real Colors to allow their employees to discover who they are, what they are really good at and how they can be successful by focusing on their strengths versus their weaknesses.  When this type of personal growth meets company performance, magic happens. So throw out the old model of expecting your employees to fit into a box.  The untapped potential for your business growth lies in unleashing the unique strengths of your people and when they are successful, so are you!

5. Invest in your People:

Often times when HR professionals talk about investing in your people, it usually means paying them more or adding more perks like a Foosball table or free lunches.  And don’t get me wrong, while this type of thing can make employees feel appreciated, it is not the type of investment I am referring to.  Investing in your people means trusting your people with the hard things and letting them work on solving those things.  When you hire a new employee, you are making them a part of your tribe, your family….  Tribe members care for each other, support each other, challenge one another and share life (the good and bad) together.  Whether it is a cross-functional team, an emerging leader program, or interest based opportunity, trusting your people (and not just those with a manger title) and their potential enough to let them work on the greatest opportunities and challenges your business faces will allow them to grow in unique and amazing ways while providing your organization with innovative ideas and solutions you may not have otherwise known.

The fact is that regardless of what business you are in, if you have employees, you are in the business of people.  These people are the lifeblood of your business.  Implementing these 5 strategies in your business will ensure your lifeblood is happy and healthy so your business can grow and thrive now and in the years to come.