As the job market continues to gradually improve, employers are being held by their staff to new standards for positive and engaging workplace experiences.
Gone are the days where workers held on to their jobs for dear life. Instead, employees are constantly on the lookout for better opportunities, better perks and overall better jobs — and, of course, the grass is always greener on the other side.
This pressure has become a catalyst for businesses to re-evaluate their human resources practices and gain a deeper understanding of their employees’ needs, interests and motivating factors. Organizations are using this information to create employee engagement programs aimed at improving workplace culture and keeping employees happy and productive.
However, it can be overwhelming to understand where to start when developing engagement programs and identify which initiatives will truly have an impact.
Susan Hunt Stevens, Co-Founder and CEO of WeSpire, a Boston-based startup that has developed a platform on which companies can run their engagement programs, says that the key to success is to develop a multipronged strategy.
“There isn’t a single, magic solution to make all of your employees engaged and fulfilled,” says Stevens. “Businesses need to create a holistic strategy that takes into account all of the factors that impact employee engagement.”
Here are the five pillars Stevens recommends implementing when creating your strategy.
- Manager relationships – Only 10 percent of working people possess the talent to be a great manager, according to the Gallup State of the American Manager study. “It’s just not effective for companies to promote all of their top-performing employees to managers,” says Stevens. “They need to approach promotions to managerial positions as though an employee is taking on a completely new role.” Employees should first express interest in being a manager, then a training plan should be put in place to learn the necessary skills and regular check-ins with HR should be scheduled.
- Company reputation and values – Historically, businesses and corporations have functioned with the sole purpose to make money, but many are now taking a step back and identifying their greater purpose in society. Articulating your organization’s purpose helps employees to see the bigger picture and where they fit in to help achieve the company goals. In fact, the leading source of professional contentment is having a sense of purpose, according to the Happiness Research Institute.
- Sustainability – It may seem an unlikely pillar for employee engagement, but the reality is that many organizations have sustainability initiatives deeply embedded in their business practices, yet they under-utilize their employees. Creating programs around recycling, energy savings or other corporate initiatives provides a way for your employees to contribute to companywide goals. Stevens stresses that it’s important to measure and communicate program impact and goal progress so that employees can see tangible results from their actions.
- Physical and emotional well-being – “Workers dedicate the majority of their waking hours to their companies, and now they want to see that their employers are just as dedicated to their employees’ well-being,” says Stevens. Developing programs centered around wellness shows your employees that you care about them as people. Additional programs such as mentoring and stress management provide employees with the peace of mind that their employers care about their emotional well-being, too.
- Gratitude – The idea of thanking and congratulating people for a job well done seems like a simple task, yet it is often overlooked in the world of business. Putting in systems and capabilities for both managers and peers to be able to recognize employees for their work or share what they are personally grateful for serves as validation that their presence is important, meaningful and that they’re a valued member of the organization.
These five pillars can help structure an employee engagement strategy, but Stevens makes it clear that the challenge of managing and running engagement programs effectively should not be understated. Even with a variety of programs, what works for one employee may not work for another, and growing companies face a whole new set of challenges when it comes to scaling programs.
As employee engagement programs become increasingly important and complex, many organizations are turning to a new breed of technology on which those programs can be run, measured and promoted.
There’s no doubt that the workplace is changing, and any organization that is prioritizing employee engagement is already a step ahead of the rest. Whether you’re just starting to think about employee engagement or it’s been an established initiative for years, consider these five pillars, how you’re measuring success and where there’s room for improvement.
Dana Manciagli is a career expert, speaker and consultant. She has spent more than 30 years as a Fortune 500 sales and marketing executive and is now retired after more than a decade at Microsoft. Dana is the author of the book, “Cut the Crap, Get a Job!” and a prolific blogger. She sits on the worldwide board of Junior Achievement and has her MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.