Tuesday February 19, 2013
Tips to improve your employee engagement
Talking HR with Pauline Ng
ONE of the biggest problems that organisations face is the lack of employee engagement.
Employee engagement is frequently associated with productivity, energy, initiative and employees who are dedicated to the success of the organisation.
Recently, I was speaking with a client who shared that they were looking for a general manager (GM) who could come into the organisation to inject new ideas into their business and be an agent of change.
It seems that over the years, the organisation had been acquiring competent employees from its competitors as well as from leading multinational companies. However, these individuals were not contributing at the level at which the management had hoped for and forecast budgets were not being met.
Upon hearing this, I asked the chief executive officer of the company if he believed he had an engaged workforce. He paused for a moment and shook his head. While there was still a need to hire for the GM's role, it was also necessary for the organisation to address the problem of employee engagement.
A global workforce study undertaken by Towers Watson just last year found that about two-thirds or 65% of the global workforce is generally not highly engaged. So, what are the common symptoms of a disengaged workforce?
In my experience, this typically manifests itself through behaviours such as a majority of employees frequently going on medical leave, putting in minimal effort to getting the job done and clearly wanting to be doing something else, employees taking a negative stand when it comes to their employer or when talking about their customers, just to name a few.
Given that two-thirds of the respondents to this global survey were generally not highly engaged, it is very likely that many of you may have seen at least one of these symptoms in some of the organisations you have worked with in the course of your professional careers.
Unfortunately, employee engagement or the lack of it is not a problem that can be solved with quick fixes. Behaviours are learned over a period of time and cannot be unlearned overnight. So, perhaps we need to consider how we could minimise the impact of disengagement at the beginning of the employee's journey with the organisation.
These are some suggestions that may be useful when considering your next key hire.
Communication and the accuracy of the message being delivered is usually a primary factor when it comes to relating or dealing with people. For instance, it begins the moment a recruiter approaches the potential candidate for a job and the candidate is told about an attractive job opportunity that may at times seem a little too good to be true.
Overselling a job usually sets the candidate up for failure, even at the point where he or she shows up for the first interview. The hiring manager may unknowingly contribute to this by painting a rosy picture of the role and the company with the intention of wooing the candidate to join the company. Unfortunately, when the candidate commences work and sees that things are not as anticipated, disengagement could set in.
The earlier mentioned symptoms start to present themselves and the candidate may eventually leave the organisation with a bad impression of the whole company. In this example, it would probably have been better for all parties concerned if the candidate had not taken the job.
An alternative approach would be to give the potential hire a balanced view of the job and the organisation, and allow the individual a reasonable amount of time to consider the offer. This would avoid either party making impulsive decisions that may be regretted later.
It has also often been said that people do not leave their jobs, they leave managers. While most potential hires know the job description of a role, they may not have the necessary insights into the people that they would be dealing with on the job, other than the hiring manager.
Interviews for some senior roles may only involve the immediate boss, and at some stage, a representative from the human resource team due to various reasons such as confidentiality, cost and logistics. Whenever possible, it is extremely beneficial to involve more stakeholders in the process, in particular, when hiring for key positions.
One of my clients recently arranged for the two finalist candidates to fly to Singapore to meet their management team at their regional office, as the selected candidate would have a significant amount of interaction with the team there. Based on the feedback from the CEO and the management team, one of the candidates was hired.
As such, the major stakeholders were able to provide their perspectives of the candidates before the hiring decision was made. From the employee engagement perspective, understanding how the potential hire interacts with others before making an offer could be an important consideration, especially if the success of the individual hinges on these key relationships.
In some instances, a common complaint I hear from candidates going for job interviews is, “Why do they need to meet me again?” What they do not realise is that this is another opportunity to gain more insight into the organisation and its culture. As much as the interviewer is making an assessment during an interview, the candidate should also be assessing the organisation for fit and alignment of goals.
One final suggestion would be to use an assessment tool to peel another layer off the candidate's initial faade to better understand what makes the individual tick. Research has shown that people who enjoy what they do are four times more likely to succeed at their tasks.
In fact, when making an internal hire, we put the potential hire on an assessment and discuss the feedback with the individual to better understand their motivations and preferences, before making the hiring decision.
This piece of information is useful when considering their fit to the company culture vis a vie the profile of the manager whom the potential hire would be reporting to. We would also be able to observe what engages the individual and how we can potentially create an avenue for them to add value to the organisation.
Although engaging the workforce is often seen as a talent development issue that can't be changed within a short period of time, perhaps we could minimise the impact of a disengaged workforce by hiring right and keeping employee engagement in mind at the talent acquisition stage.