You would have to be living under a rock these days not to know that employee engagement ranks consistently as one of the top three issues keeping leaders up at night. To succeed in this new economy you need top talent. But finding it, keeping it, and engaging it is just plain hard.
To deal with the pressure, leaders are pulling out all the stops. They are using innovative approaches to engage today’s best and brightest. Developing new onboarding systems, creative career development programs, and mentorship and coaching programs. They are doing this all in an effort to better connect, understand, and ultimately engage top talent.
While all of those strategies are important, at the end of the day, more often than not, they fall short. Even with all the money, time, and resources leaders are putting into retaining talent. And ironically, this is the time when leaders need their teams to be more engaged than ever.
To date, Gallup reports that more than seventy-percent of today’s workforce admits to being checked out, disinterested and completely disengaged. And as leaders, we are both aware of the problem and spending our very limited resources to the tune of $750 million dollars trying to solve the problem. Yet Gallup reports that if something does not change, if we as leaders, do not do something different that seventy percent will rise to more than eighty-four percent. So I would say Houston we have a problem, something is missing and it is time for a different approach.
To fully engaging employees you need to understand, then implement the most critical of employee engagement strategies. Before I share that critical strategy, I want to share how I discovered it. I was interviewing a CEO of a large organization (over 600 employees) about his focus and his challenges. Naturally, employee engagement was at the forefront of the conversation.
He shared that as CEO, he made employee engagement his top priority. He understood that the only way the company could grow efficiently and effectively was to attract, retain, and fully engage top talent. They had made great strides in the programs they added, the rewards and incentives they offered, as well as their recruitment strategies. Yet they were not hitting the numbers they wanted to hit. Still not getting the engagement they so desperately wanted.
Part of his process was to get feedback from his employees. So on a quarterly basis, he set up town halls, focus groups, and one-on-ones. In one session he asked the employees what was missing. What was not working when it came to their efforts to fully engage? What he learned was fascinating. All of the programs they had invested in such as flex time, training programs, and educational sabbaticals were working in attracting talent to the company. But they fell short when it came to retaining them.
The employees went on to explain that senior management never took advantage or ever used any of these programs. So the employees assumed that if they wanted to advance they could not use them either. The message senior management was unknowingly sending was that while these programs may be part of the package, if employees actually use these programs they will never be able to move up the ladder.
See, as leaders, what we do has so much more power than what we say. The most critical of employee engagement strategies is that Actions Speak Louder Than Words. What you say you want and value as a leader needs to be reflected, repeated and consistent in your actions.
Want Employee Engagement?
Three Steps To Ensure Your Actions Speak Louder Than Your Words:
- Listen & Learn – Spend time talking with and really listening to your employees. Just like we do with customers, we need to ask open-ended questions. Be open to learning what is important to our teams and what they value.
- Walk Your Talk – If we say we value employees then make time for coaching and mentorship. If not, our talk is out of alignment with our walk. If we want employees to engage than we need to make sure what we do matches what we say. Be prepared to take action, follow-through, and be dependable. You have to walk your talk.
- Be Open To Change – Today’s employees are different. What they want out of career and life may not be the same as when you were coming along. Be open to doing things their way, and implementing and using programs and ideas that work for them.
As a leader your ability to engage your employees directly impacts your ability to grow and succeed. And while creating employee engagement can be challenging, remember that the strongest strategy you have is to be the type of leader whose actions matches your words. Employees today want leaders they can trust, and leaders whose integrity is shown when you walk your talk.