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Employee Engagement: First Things First

Why aren’t HR engagement strategies hitting their mark? What do employees really want? Well it depends... .

Employee engagement can be a bit of a moving target. Companies conduct surveys, as they should, to measure employee engagement, and the results don't tell companies how to fix the issues nor pinpoint those issues clearly.

There are thousands of articles on what the secrets are to employee engagement. Although many have great suggestions, it is a little more complicated than that, as it depends on where the employee's greatest need is at the time.

Most HR engagement survey questions are not questions but actually statements. They must be answered within a range of strongly agree to strongly disagree. If there is particular need not being met at work, the answers will be stronger, obviously, than any other question. In fact, one could argue all other answers may be down played (reporting more neutrally or positively) because it isn't the top of mind issue or priority.

So, here is Baker HR Services advice on employee engagement: Before you buy a Foosball table for the office, you may want to rethink your priorities.

Priority 1: Basic Needs

This must be met first before any more fluffy type perks should be implemented.

Job security - employees need to feel that they have a job for the foreseeable future. As you look at employee survey results of contract employees, their main concern is are whether you are going to hire me or you have another assignment lined up for me.

Decent wage - every employee probably would say they would like to be paid more. However, the real issue is does the employee has enough to make ends meet and enjoy their life a little bit? Be sure your wages are competitive. If someone is struggling financially provide the support emotionally and suggest resources like a financial counselor.

Benefits - a very serious illness hitting your employee or their family seems to be commonplace today. Such an event could send someone into bankruptcy. For many candidates, benefits are still a top priority in choosing a job. Company paid benefits that pay well is essential for employees to rest easy at night.

Priority 2: Job Needs

After the basic needs are met, managers should look to meet job needs.

Eliminate Roadblocks - if your employee cannot complete their job efficiently due to old equipment and is continually frustrated. Give them what they need - new computer, equipment serviced, training on a program so they can complete their work faster. Are they staying late all the time, get to the root of it and resolve it.

Recognition - employees need to know that their unique skills they bring to the company is valued and that they are contributing to the company.

A thank you is great, but a more thoughtful approach being specific about what you liked will go a long way. Recognizing employees during team meeting is a great way to show your appreciation as well.

Do you recognize service anniversaries and birthdays? Put them on your calendar and be sure to recognize them on their day. Consider having a monthly celebration.

Challenging Work & Growth Opportunities - employees need to have interesting work where they can continue to grow. Be sure to assign stretch projects. Discuss with them the likes and the dislikes of their job, their career goals and find ways to support them in that effort.

Priority 3: Good Relations

Respect - employee need a environment of mutual respect where conflict is resolved in a beneficial way. Implement the golden rule.

Fun - a team that plays together works well together. Plan periodic fun events throughout the year (off site game or party, a charity event that raises money for a cause that is close your employees heart, bring in a themed lunch around a holiday, organize a potluck, do a white elephant gift exchange). We all spend way to much time at work to make it all work and no play.

Support - employees often need support to be successful in their jobs without being micromanaged. Check in with employees on a regular basis and ask if they need your help. Listen to your team when they are frustrated, show empathy, and then see how you can improve the situation or expedite a solution.

Priority 4: Leadership

For employees to stay with a company long term, they need to believe in the vision of the company and the management team. Employees are being more and more choosy who they work for. In a time where leadership scandals are plastered all over the news regularly, employees are looking for leaders with character.

Communication - leaders must be as transparent as possible and communicate often. If you fail to communicate timely, employees will draw their own conclusions and often assume the worst. Managers must communicate changes on how employees do their work as soon as possible and ask for input in advance of the decision where possible.

Open to new ideas at every level - employees often are more acquainted with issues and have ideas on how to resolve them. If leadership isn't asking for it, employees won't bring those ideas to you. Solicit ideas. Better yet, implement a program recognizing those who present great solutions. Employees need feel like they have a voice, and that managers consider their suggestions. If a suggestion is not implemented, be sure to thank them any way and then explain why.

Consistency - leaders, do what you say and say what you do. Follow through on promises. Do you walk out the company values or is it just a list on a plaque on the wall? Do the rules apply to management or employees only?

Be accessible - as managers and senior leadership, it is important to make time for your employees. Don't spend all your time in meetings and behind closed doors. Connect with employees on a personal level, and they are more likely to approach you on business matters.

Employee engagement is one of the best investments you can make. Don't go it alone, partner with the employee engagement experts.


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