Companies make big investments into employee engagement strategies – to attract top talent, increase productivity, and retain their best people.
In fact, Harvard Business Review recently quoted a study that found companies have spent $720 million annually to foster employee engagement. Unfortunately, within that same context, Gallup, reported employee engagement to be at record lows (only 13%).
What are we missing here?
Susan LaMotte, a Harvard Business Review contributor, conducted a study in the US that found the tenet of person-organization fit is influenced not only by what happens at work, but also what happens outside of it.
Through focus groups and interviews, LaMotte examined workplace preferences and patterns in relation to performance, engagement and job satisfaction. She looked at the people and relationships that influence employees outside of the office. She also studied the employees’ personal life values and their general activities outside of work.
Her conclusion? Employee engagement is not always about the workplace! She discovered that how employees behaved outside of work had an intense impact on their behavior at work.
I believe LaMotte is absolutely correct in her insights. However, I would take this notion one step further and say that successful employee engagement strategies start with recruitment. It’s a three-step model as follows:
1. Planning the team: hire for attitude, aptitude and social intelligence. We see too many employers focus their hiring solely on skills and experience. Then, they try to fit a team together like a puzzle retroactively. When we work with clients, we analyze not only the needs of the position, but also the working and learning styles and social dynamics of the team. We look at these characteristics from the lens of a job candidate’s direct boss as well. This process is not about finding people similar to you, rather, it’s about finding a complementary mix of work skills and social skills to build a team that inherently “clicks.”
2. Fostering company culture focused on co-worker relationships: perks and benefits are nice-to-haves in the overall context of employee satisfaction. However, we are social creatures by nature, so cultivating that sense of belonging within a team can have big impact on people’s accountability to peers (increase productivity) and loyalty to a company (talent retention). Even if colleagues aren’t friends outside of work, successful employee engagement strategies will build dynamic friendships at work.
3. Match company goals with personal goals: we’ve seen many self-starter type employees leave a job and company they love because their learning curve is plateauing. They are not learning as much on the job as they once were, and boredom or ambition takes over. Either way, they are looking for new opportunities to get them excited and challenged again, and competitors are ready to court them. Employee engagement strategies must take into account employees’ short term and long term goals both from a work perspective, and from a personal perspective. If you can help an employee grow with the company, while enabling them to simultaneously check things off their personal to-do lists, you will be fostering a stronger, more authentic company connection.
After all, as LaMotte puts it: “Employees bring their whole selves to work” so we must pay attention to engaging employees as their whole selves, not just their work persona.
Have you seen employee engagement strategies that have worked well? Please share your insights with us in the comments section below.