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How to Increase Employee Engagement
In just the past year, TSIA has received a significant number of questions from our members about employee engagement. Between looming talent wars and a millennial workforce that expects different behavior from their employers, technology and services organizations need to rethink their corporate culture and increase employee satisfaction.
Is your company doing enough to attract and retain the right talent? While creating an engaged workforce requires holistic cultural change and buy-in from top-level executives, here are 3 ways your organization can start making the shift toward better employee engagement.
Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.
Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group
Historically, compensation was used as a primary lever to attract and keep top talent, but that’s no longer enough; employees also want to enjoy where they work and who they work with. While compensation can get talent in the door, a company culture in which employees feel valued, appreciated, and respected will ultimately keep them around.
Unfortunately, many companies experience a disconnect between what the employer considers a good work environment and what the employee values and actually experiences. To bridge that divide, you’ll want to keep your fingers on the pulse of employee satisfaction with regular surveying. Though most businesses understand the importance of surveying customers, surveying employees is surprisingly less common.
Part of having a great company culture is ensuring that employees not only feel safe to provide regular feedback, but also have their feedback heard and acted upon. It’s important that when you ask questions to gauge employee experiences, you make sure the feedback is completely anonymous. Anonymity removes the fear of being singled out and reprimanded for expressing negative feelings, and allows for full honesty that can lead to improvement.
As for the type of questions you should be asking your employees, a good starting point is the Gallup Q12 Index, an impressive set of 12 questions focused on better understanding your company culture. Questions include:
The full list of questions and other recommendations can be found in my paper, “10 Elements of a Successful Employee Engagement Program,” which is available to all TSIA members. These should help you brainstorm your own list that will give you better insight into employee satisfaction at your company.
TSIA recommends having these discussions within the first month of hiring a new employee as part of the onboarding process.
Often, career path exercises between management and employees don’t happen until year three or later, after management feels certain an employee is going to stick around. Instead, TSIA recommends having these discussions within the first month of hiring a new employee as part of the onboarding process. This way, employers can clearly lay out what they have to offer their new hires, and employees will in turn feel confident that the company values them enough to plan for future success.
Taking future individual growth into account early on can also help set more realistic goals and expectations, providing the added value of transparency. But it’s important to regularly revisit career path development plans on a quarterly or semiannual basis to remain in-tune with employees’ expectations and ensure performance goals are being met. MBOs (management by objective), for example, can be used to simultaneously motivate desired behavior and move employees closer to their career goals.
Mentorship and peer training opportunities can also solidify an employee’s relationship with the company. By mentoring a peer, coworkers begin developing closer bonds, while taking on additional responsibilities that contribute to personal development. This helps individuals find their footing, and leads to better team collaboration and skills growth.
There’s an understandable fear that providing too much training and certification can increase the value of their employees beyond what you can afford, ultimately leading those employees to leave for better opportunities. However, employers who allow this fear to dictate their management strategies do themselves a disservice by not investing in the professional development of individual employees.
By providing robust learning and certification opportunities, you can see improved metrics due to creating more skilled employees, thereby maximizing each individual’s full potential. When paired with the aforementioned career pathing, these “upskilling” exercises show employees they are valued, which builds loyalty and creates an incentive to stay.
When we researched what makes for a successful employee engagement program, a consistent theme that kept coming up was the impact millennials have on the workforce. According to a 2018 workforce analysis by the Pew Research Center, millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force at 35%.
Millennials want to feel valued, and if they don’t, they will go to a company that does value them. They understand that revenue, and therefore individual performance is important, but they also expect employers to meet more than just their monetary needs; they want to be cared for, nurtured, and appreciated.
…millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force at 35%.
A recent survey conducted by Deloitte shows that millennials have increasingly pessimistic views of their employers, which is mostly due to a misalignment between their values and the behavior/perceived values of their employers. This same survey showed that 43% of millennials plan to leave their company after two years, and only 28% plan to stay with their current company beyond five years.
Parallel to the customer-centric shift driven by customer demands, it’s millennial employee demands that are forcing employers to innovate their employee training and retention programs to meet this need. But as evidenced through a TSIA survey of our members, only 12% of respondents feel their training programs are sufficient for the younger generation.
However, while millennials are challenging employers to think beyond monetary needs and recognize more culture-based values, making these changes for the benefit of all of your employees absolutely must happen if you’re going to attract and retain the great talent you need to succeed.
While surveying your employees and building career paths are small steps in the right direction toward cultivating a culture that values employees, it means nothing if no action is taken. While creating company-wide change can take time and executive buy-in, many companies TSIA surveyed have begun taking initiatives themselves within their own departments, without waiting for HR or senior leadership for guidance. Small steps in the right direction are better than no steps at all. To quote a cliché: “Be the change you wish to see."
For help on improving your company culture to make your employees feel valued, all current TSIA members have access to my paper, “10 Elements of a Successful Employee Engagement Program,” which will provide you with even more ideas for making small changes that can lead to big results. If you’re not a TSIA member yet, reach out to us today to set up a conversation about how we can help your organization plan for future success from the inside out.
Post Date: December 13, 2018
Dustin Shulkin is a former senior member success manager within TSIA's Member Success department. Prior to joining TSIA, Dustin was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy.
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The Technology & Services Industry Association (TSIA) is dedicated to helping technology and services organizations large and small grow and advance in the technology industry. Find out how you can achieve success, too. Call us at (858) 674-5491 or we can call you.