By Lyndsey Simpson, co-owner The Curve Group
Have you noticed any of the following behaviours in your people?
They keep their heads down
Have become more risk averse
They think short term
Do what they need to do
Stop being as proactive or innovative
If you have noticed one or more of the above behaviours in your organisation then read on…
UK businesses have been through (and in many cases, are still going through) tough times. Organisations have needed to make difficult decisions. In many cases this has meant making large scale redundancies. If you have managed to avoid this, you have probably needed to put a freeze on both pay and recruitment at the very least.
As well as these very obvious changes, a more subtle adjustment has taken place in people’s mental attitude towards their work and their employer. The behaviours listed at the top of this article are very typical in employees who have shifted to survival mode in the current climate.
The result can be;
1.Lower levels of performance amongst the general population and especially survivors of any redundancy process
2.Managers who have become entrenched in using a short term, reactive management style
3.Top talent who are resolving to jump ship – this year!
All these factors mean that it is especially important for organisations to focus on employee engagement at this time in order to build sustainable businesses able to emerge successfully from the recession.
The Starting Point – What are You Looking to Achieve?
At The Curve Group we are hearing similar scenarios to the one described above from a range of different businesses.
However, each organisation is unique. The starting point for improving employee engagement has to be to define what it is you want to achieve, and equally importantly, how you are going to measure success. There are a number of both hard and soft measures that can be used to measure different aspects of employee engagement. Examples include;
attrition rates in general or perhaps of a specific group of employees such as top talent
sickness and absence levels
performance as measured via your performance management system
productivity or customer satisfaction levels
employees feeling valued
employees reporting clarity around their role and how they contribute to organisational success
By starting with the end in mind, you are much more likely to be effective in making a difference to employee engagement and will be able to prove it.
Where are we now?
Having established where you are going you need to find out where you are. You may already have useful information such as sickness and absence statistics, feedback from customers or data from an employee opinion survey. On the other hand, the starting point may well involve gathering data. This could be done, either by sampling the views of employees, perhaps by representative focus groups, or you may decide to carry out a climate survey to take a temperature check of your people.
The design of any information gathering process is very important. The questions you ask should be carefully designed to uncover information which will provide a full and accurate picture in relation to the issues you are looking to address. An employee survey to tackle specific aspects of employee engagement should be much more specific than a general employee opinion survey.
Communication: Part of the Process and the Solution
Internal employee communications are crucial to the improvement of employee engagement. The flow of information informing people about the process, of progress and of results needs to be well planned and followed through. All too often, organisations put a great deal of effort into gathering information from employees, only to fail to communicate actions and improvements taking place as a direct result of their participation, potentially having a negative impact on employee engagement.
However, good quality, regular communication not only forms part of the process of improving employee engagement but may also be an important element of the solution. The internal communications function will therefore be a vital partner in any employee engagement improvement programme.
Having identified the key issues which need addressing in order to achieve your employee engagement goals, you can then design appropriate solutions to tackle those areas. The solutions are likely to belong to one of the following three areas.
1.Resourcing may include the need to bring new people into the organisation. However, it is just as likely to involve the identification of high potential employees amongst the existing population, improvement of succession planning and moving people around the business to provide extra resource to key areas as well as broadening and developing the skills, experience and career prospects of the employees involved.
2.Management Development is, in most cases, an important factor in improving employee engagement. Leadership effectiveness is context specific. In other words, a leadership style which works in one set of circumstances is unlikely to be as successful and may be downright destructive when the environment changes. Change of habit is difficult for human beings and especially busy managers, who have faced tough times themselves. They often understandably need the space and support to be able to reflect on the changes they need to make in the way they lead their people.
Training and development is also a motivational activity for all employees. As well as the direct benefit to organisations gained through a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce, there is an additional benefit - employees feel more valued and encouraged as they see the investment made in them by the organisation.
3.The solutions may lay in making changes to the ecology of the organisation. This could include changes to processes, the working environment, the culture and climate. Changes in these areas may include improvements in efficiency but it is important to keep in mind the impact on employee engagement you are looking to achieve. That coffee area may seem like wasted space but how valuable is it to the organisation in providing an informal space for relationship building, ideas sharing and identifying opportunities to work across business functions?
Finally, catch people doing something right. Once you know what changes you need to make, look for examples of good practice that already exist within the organisation. Let people know about it and encourage people to find their own ways of achieving something similar. In other words engage people in the process!
The Curve Group can support you with all your employee engagement requirements. This may range from running a climate survey, to leadership coaching or building a talent scheme. If you would like to discuss your employee engagement needs, please get in touch:
T: (0845) 450 6365
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