As we start the new year, most HR professionals will agree that employee engagement is one of their most pressing priorities because it affects their organization’s ability to produce, compete and survive. Many will admit that their employee engagement scores are at all-time lows and that they’re still trying to figure out a plan that will effectively combat the malaise that lurks beneath the images of the smiling employees on their company’s careers site.
While there are various ways to define “employee engagement,” many solutions tend to be ineffective in that they focus on short-term planning and immediate returns. Managers are busy, resources are scarce and quick-fix methods of re-engaging a detached workforce rarely deliver the desired results. Effective employee engagement requires diverse options and a long-term approach to planning.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Much of the problem with engagement programs is that, in an effort to be efficient with time and resources, organizations often apply a one-size-fits-all approach and are telling—not asking—employees what they need. Organizations might have more success if they offered multiple options, trained people managers to determine the engagement needs for each employee and delivered a more customized solution. According to Paul Hebert in the podcast What is Employee Engagement?, “What it really boils down to, I think, is managers having more conversations, understanding more about the humans they work with—what are their goals, their desires, how do I help them do that? And that’s hard to put into a process.”
The Long Now
Another reason employee engagement is failing is that the rapid pace of innovation in business and technology has created a short-horizon perspective and an inability to think long-term. In the article The Long Now of Employee Engagement, Paul Hebert references the work of Stewart Brand from the Long Now Foundation regarding how “companies are trying to force the engagement process into their 'normal' business time frames. Months, quarters, years. But engagement doesn’t fit that timescale. Engagement is a much deeper relationship built over time and built with multiple offers, acceptances, counteroffers and counter-acceptances."
The development of employee engagement and culture in an organization is a long game. Hebert says that “engagement doesn’t fit reporting periods. It doesn’t fit quarterly statements or annual reports. It grows, like children grow. Slowly. Steadily … It happens over a long period of time and through many different events and experiences. Trying to fit engagement into a standard business timescale is why we lack engagement. We need to learn from the long now project and think of engagement across years, across careers, across borders and divisions. That doesn’t mean we should not do things in the near term. What it means is that what we do in the near term affects the long term.”
How will you address employee engagement in 2016, and what are the keys to building a long-game process that will ensure an unwavering culture and sustained success in your future workforce?
Please join @shrmnextchat at 3pm ET on January 13 for #Nextchat with special guest Paul Hebert @IncentIntel. We’ll chat about the future of employee engagement.
Q1. Survey, schmurvey. What are the outward signs and behaviors of a disengaged employee or a disengaged workforce?
Q2. What part of the employee engagement puzzle are organizations not getting right as they try to combat low employee engagement scores?
Q3. What are the biggest challenges to increasing employee engagement in today’s workforce?
Q4. Why is it important in the new world of work to offer a diverse set of options for engaging employees in a variety of ways?
Q5. It can be difficult to engage a multiple-generation workforce. How can HR and managers accommodate their different needs?
Q6. Are well-trained and thoughtful people managers the first step to an effective employee engagement strategy? Why or why not?
Q7. How are you training your people managers to increase engagement amongst individuals and teams?
Q8. There are many elements to engagement: training, benefits, work flexibility, manager competency, etc. How would you rank them?
Q9. How can organizations begin to view employee engagement and culture as a long-run process instead of a series of quick fixes?