If you’re lucky, you bound out of bed each morning looking forward to another day at work. Maybe it’s because your work is fulfilling or you work with a great boss who has your back. Or maybe your co-workers are interesting and fun.
But maybe your job is boring, your boss is an egotist and your co-workers are morons. And because of that, maybe you’ve “retired” on the job.
That attitude shows up a lot in surveys of folks who want to change jobs. Keeping employees engaged is a huge problem facing companies as the US claws out of the economic doldrums, according to participants in several workshops at HR Houston’s 21st annual Gulf Coast Symposium earlier this month. As the economy improves, more employees who felt stuck during the recession are starting to look around for greener pastures.
Communicate: Keep your employees engaged with the company.
But bosses can make their own side of the fence look better to employees by putting some time and effort into making sure they feel as if they’re a critical part of the team.
It’s a matter of recognizing their efforts with a simple “thank you” in person or email, celebrating special milestones with a cake for the office, and sitting down periodically to discuss where they’re going next in their careers.
“We pile on the perks for the top 10%,” says Debra Bogowitz of Accelerated HR Solutions in El Dorado Hills, California, US. The bottom 10% get lots of attention too, she says, with coaching and documentation of deficiencies.
But the massive middle gets overlooked, says Bogowitz, who gave a presentation at the conference. “They’re known as Popos: Passed over and pissed off.” One great way to make sure newer employees are engaged is to check with them about six months into the job to find out if they’re happy. Bogowitz calls it a “stay” interview. It involves asking employees what they like about the job and what they don’t like, what changes they’d like to see, and what could entice them to leave the company—and then using the answers to make adjustments. “If you aren’t re-recruiting your best people, you’re the only one who isn’t,” she says.
No one solution
And don’t wait until someone hands in a resignation. By then it’s too late. The emotional attachment is gone.
Doing a better job of driving employee engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Some employees may want more work-life balance, especially the opportunity to work from home occasionally, says Kevin Sheridan, CEO of HR Solutions International in Chicago, who estimates that 60% of workers are ambivalent about their jobs. They feel unappreciated and at times unimportant, and do just enough to get by.
Melissa Williams, a recruiting manager at the Achilles Group in Houston, Texas, reinforces the notion that being appreciated can keep people around, at least for a while. She recalls staying in a job longer than she should have because she was recognized regularly for her talent.
Williams, clearly an extrovert, worked in a window-less cubicle where she scrolled the big job boards for résumés. But she couldn’t contact the candidates—that was someone else’s job.
“That’s like a caged tiger with me not talking,” she says. “But they’d say: ‘You are doing such a great job. Now be quiet.’ So I’d stay another month.”
Sheridan, author of Building a Magnetic Culture: How to Attract And Retain Top Talent to Create an Engaged, Productive Workforce, says some of the younger employees in his office suggested putting up “personal fact sheets” in the break room. The fun facts spark conversation and promote a friendly workplace.
Brittany Smith, a recruiter with Houston-based accessory retailer Charming Charlie, believes that strong engagement translates into higher productivity. Each year it surveys workers in its 193 stores to assess employee satisfaction.
One recent questionnaire uncovered a desire for break-room goodies, and Charming Charlie now provides free Starbucks coffee and healthy snacks. “It’s a little something that shows we appreciate our employees and that we’re listening,” she says.
©2012/The New York Times
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