What’s in it for them?: How to boost employee engagement

Human Capital

Business owners often share similar concerns about their workforce.

For example, employers wish their employees would act as if they are owners of the business. When asked if the employees are paid as if they are owners, they usually say something like, “Of course they aren’t.”

That response is the root of the disconnect between workers who aren’t owners and whether they accept responsibility for the company’s results or their particular job. How can we create an environment that encourages employees to take some degree of ownership?

In the Conference Board CEO Challenge 2015, human capital was the top global challenge for the third year running. The Conference Board identified five strategies to address human capital needs:

  1. Offer more employee training and development.
  2. Raise employee engagement.
  3. Improve performance management processes and accountability.
  4. Increase retention efforts.
  5. Improve leadership development programs.

Employee engagement

A November Gallup Poll determined that only 32 percent of employees are engaged at work. If 68 percent of your employees aren’t engaged, how does that affect productivity, quality, absenteeism and stewardship?

With more than two-thirds of the workforce not engaged, it’s difficult for a company to be competitive. This lack of commitment also suggests that if you can improve employee involvement, you should have a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Increasing engagement requires employers to understand what employees expect and want from their jobs.

Business owners must answer the question that each employee asks: “What’s in it for me?”

It’s easy for you to think you’ve met their needs with compensation and benefits. Today, engaged employees expect so much more.

They expect control, respect, recognition, a worthy goal, development, reward and benefits, flexibility, open-minded management and balance.

Employees want their jobs to have meaning. They want to contribute to something that makes a difference. It’s the employer’s job to demonstrate how the task being performed aligns with corporate goals and makes the world a better place.

Control is important as employees do their work. They want to be active participants in the decisions that affect their tasks and the products they produce. When they have more control, they take more ownership.

Everyone wants respect. Management teams that respect their workforce will receive a higher level of respect in kind. It’s essential that respect is a component of a company’s values and that you demonstrate and practice it throughout the business.

Employees want to be recognized for their contribution. I remember my father telling me how a company had set new shipping records for a particular month. When the executives came to the plant, they criticized the workers for throwing paper cups on the floor instead of praising them for meeting shipping goals.

Employees have seen long-term employment jeopardized. The company that continually offers opportunities for employees to upgrade their skills helps them remain viable workers.

Almost all workers want fair compensation. This doesn’t mean they have to be at the top of the range. But a company that tries to get by paying workers low wages will encourage employees to look for higher-paying jobs.

Employees want flexibility in their work assignments and hours. Inflexible companies that demand strict adherence to rules and regulations will discourage people from working there. You must foster an environment of open-mindedness.

All value originates with ideas and innovations. A business that’s unwilling to seek out new approaches or listen to employees at all levels in the organization will miss the significant opportunities to create value.

Finally, employees want balance. For most businesses, gone are the days when the job was the most outstanding event in a person’s life. That may have been true a few decades ago, but employees have shifted their mantra from “live to work” to “work to live.”

Corporate loyalty, for the most part, is dead, and we have ourselves to blame. The merger and acquisition mania from decades ago demonstrated to young people how their parents’ positions were insignificant compared to the sale or merger of the company.

Higher engagement may be an indicator of improved employee loyalty.

-Jim Lindell is president of Thorsten Consulting Group Inc., a Wisconsin-based provider of strategic and financial consulting, professional speaking, training and executive coaching. He has worked with a variety of industries, including manufacturing, health care, nonprofit, distribution and food processing. He chairs two groups for TEC Wisconsin and is author of the book “Controller as Business Manager.”

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

Jim Lindell, CPA, CGMA, CSP is a Vistage Chair in southeast Wisconsin and president of Thorsten Consulting Group, Inc. He is an award-winning speaker and best-selling author.

No posts to display