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Written by: Inga Nelson, CPHR
As you can probably surmise, this title is all about employee engagement. There are three key words in the title that are essential to the ever elusive employee engagement: want, work, and here. This article will elaborate on all three aspects, along with a short real example that explains the title.
All of this came to my mind, when our company made a massive move to a brand new warehouse facility. Everyone (office and warehouse people) pitched in wherever and however they were able. I was taking garbage bags out to the warehouse next to the loading docks, when a courier arrived to pick up goods. He was admiring the new warehouse, when the receiver saw me and said, “Oh and here is our Human Resources manager.” Whereupon the courier replied as he watched me pitch the garbage bags in the dumpster, “Wow, I want to work here!” Apparently, he appreciated that management wasn’t afraid to get their hands dirty and pitch in as part of the team if need be. Perhaps it gave him the sense that management wasn’t above helping with menial tasks. Whatever the reason, his statement instantly made me think of employee engagement and what it means.
THE “WANT” IN ENGAGEMENT
What is it that makes a person “want” anything? Generally speaking, the person must see something of value to themselves or someone they care for. That value can be very individually specific and intrinsic, or can be very broad in nature and extrinsic. An employer looks for people who want to work for their company in particular. Of course brand marketing can entice new employees through the door. However, if there is a disconnection between the brand marketing and the actual feel of the organizational culture, the novelty of the enticement and desire to work can quickly wear off.
THE “WORK” IN ENGAGEMENT
The word “work” may mean something different to different people, but an employer is looking for effective and efficient work. Hence the reason that both job descriptions and job expectations are crucial for the employee to satisfy the employer. Otherwise work can be haphazard and sloppy by just winging it, which will leave the employee feeling disengaged and saying, “Whatever!”
THE “HERE” IN ENGAGEMENT
Why does an employee want to work “here”? Once again, that is a very subjective perspective of the individual. However as an employer, one can always attempt to view it from the angle of being in the employee’s proverbial shoes. Are the structures of the existing teams in the organization defined, or are they so loosely defined that employee roles are unclear: positions are filled, but are roles fulfilled? Mind you if the team structures are extremely rigid, the pendulum can swing too far by creating too many brick walls and the sense of “it’s not my job”. When a new employee or a new scenario requires direction, are the go-to people obvious to all? If not, then working here will quickly become a source of frustration. As trust in the organization’s game plan goes down, performance goes down with it.
HOW CAN WE HELP
Employee engagement truly is a mindset, and somewhat ethereal in nature. Therein lies the challenge for human resources. Employers must provide employees with clarity of how their roles fit into the joint venture of the organization’s strategy for success – both short-term and long-term. Without the sense of partnership and of role clarity, the mindset of engagement will continue to evade the workplace. Depending on the individual’s job responsibilities, she/he needs to visualize how he/she can impact business improvements for product, or cost, or customer satisfaction, or productivity. Perhaps more importantly, employees need to know that they have a voice either directly or indirectly in the business, and that they are not invisible to their leaders. As Human Resources strategists, when problems of productivity are brought to our attention, we should begin our research into the structure and individual role clarity of that team or teams involved.
As always, if leaders and management won’t participate in efforts to improve engagement through communications and open door policies, things will remain status quo. Ultimately, communication – both talking and listening, and not just written communication – is what allows ideas to be shared instead of ignored. This allows employees to feel engaged with what is happening around them. So how do we get this point across to our leaders? This is where strategic data comes into play. If not enough data can be derived from performance review data, turnaround data, and absenteeism data, then third party surveys can help to fill in the blanks. Surveys can bring to light which teams are feeling engaged or disengaged, which in turn can shed light on management styles that are and are not working. For example, is there too much feedback - micro-management with mostly one way communication, or is there not enough feedback – closed door? In the end, employees want to know they matter, and need to know how they make a difference to the organization’s vision statement. Oh, and a bit of job flexibility can go a long way to make employees say, “I want to work here!”
About the Author:
Inga Nelson is a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) and an CPHR Alberta member whose expertise encompasses 17 years of HR Generalist practice with a family business (30 employees) that distributes internationally. Inga also holds an H.R. Management Certificate from the University of Calgary.
If you would like to chat more about this topic with Inga, connect with her on Linkedin.