I’m considered an anomaly. I’ve been with my firm since I was a staff accountant. That’s almost 25 years. Research indicates that employees today average 5 years at any given job. Given that stat it’s been calculated that most people now will change their careers 9 to 17 times. Amazing! So it is no wonder the challenge over the past two decades has been how to retain top talent and create work environments that are attractive to this agile workforce.
There are various books, research and programs out there that provide leaders with the understanding of this cultural shift in the workplace and how to more thoroughly engage their employees. From working with our diverse client base to reflecting on my own firm’s encounters, there are 4 drivers that I believe emerge as being critical to excellent employee engagement and sustaining long-term teammates. They are:
1. Clarity of Vision and Mission. Leadership needs to be visible, empowering and able to provide a strong strategic narrative about the organization’s origins and where it’s going. From this, employees should be able to draw a clear line of sight between their job and the purpose of the organization, and understand how their daily work impacts the business. It takes a lot of planning and communication to create this high-level of clarity. Consequently, when your company is “vision-mission” driven; besides helping current teammates understand their role, it also helps in hiring the right people for the culture. Let’s face it – the wrong hire cannot be “engaged” in your organization, no matter how many initiatives you try.
2. Leadership Listens and Acts. When a strong sense of listening and of responsiveness permeates the organization, (enabled by effective communication), employee engagement is at its highest. Employees know their views are sought out; they are listened to and see that their opinions count and make a difference. Most organizations have annual satisfaction surveys to aid in being proactive and in staying on top of the company’s pulse. Surveys are fine, but simply having actual conversations and asking employees ‘What can we do better?’ is much more valuable. Plus, it provides a great litmus test. If employees can’t sit down with their boss and talk about things, it doesn’t matter how many anonymous surveys you run; you have an engagement problem.
3. Recognition and Constructive Feedback Are Provided Regularly. People prefer to receive constructive feedback throughout the year, not annually. Exceptional leaders give recognition, and they do so a lot; but it comes more in a coach and convey format. We don’t need to overthink about how to recognize employees. A simple thank you for their hard work or a tip on improvement for the next time goes a long way to showing you appreciate their contributions.
4. Career Growth Opportunities Are Evident. High-engagement companies understand that employees are the essence of products and services. They develop, deliver, and support what our clients experience every day. Good leaders challenge employees; but at the same time, they instill the confidence that the challenges can be met. However, failing to give people the knowledge and tools to be successful is de-motivating and is likely to lead to stress, frustration, and ultimately, lack of engagement. Consider providing employees with opportunities to participate in special educational programs, conferences or other activities that will expand their skills and knowledge. Employees benefit by developing new skills, and the company benefits from the additional expertise acquired. Offering these opportunities as well as showing employees what they need to do to advance keeps them out of a stagnant career mindset.
Overall, keeping employees engaged is an on-going process that needs to be hard wired into an organization’s DNA. As a result paying attention to how your company is delivering on these 4 main drivers will lead to teammates feeling valued and involved. An organization that builds a culture around those two elements will establish quality employee engagement and create a great place to work for years to come.
McLean, Koehler, Sparks & Hammond (MKS&H) is a professional service firm with offices in Hunt Valley and Frederick. MKS&H helps owners and organizational leaders become more successful by advising them regarding their financial, technology and human capital management needs.