by Judy M McCutcheon
Employee engagement; are those just buzz words, or do they really have meaning? Companies in the first world countries are only now realising the vast importance of having their employees fall in love with their company. They are realising the dent that an unengaged workforce can put in their bottom line.
In our region employers are somewhat still stuck in the ‘old’ way of treating staff, where they think that employees should be grateful for the work they get and not complain about the way they are treated or the amount that they are paid. Several generations ago, that might have been the case, but certainly not now. I read an article some time ago which said that millennials will change between 17-20 jobs in their lifetime. What does that say to you as an employer? It says that it cannot be business as usual. Your employee welfare should matter, the wellbeing of your employees must form part of your bigger plan.
Employers can no longer think that employees should be grateful for employment; that ship has sailed, as a matter of fact, that ship has sunk. Employees are looking for more meaning and satisfaction in their work and they want to work for companies that see them as more than just employees. Employees are looking for a partnership with their employers, they are looking for collaboration and a working environment that creates the conditions for meaningful engagement. The more engaged your employees, the happier and more satisfied they are, the more they would be willing to go above and beyond to ensure that your customers are well served. And we all know the end result of having customers that are well served. Some employers are probably reading this thinking, that all employees want is for the employer to give and give and they get nothing in return. This, however, is a two-way street, it has to be a beautiful dance where both parties find rhythm and balance. Employers cannot think of their employees as ‘these people’ or think that they are just a lazy bunch who want to get something for nothing and then turn around and expect different results. Madness! How much do you know about your employees? And this is not a question that requires a superficial answer, it requires deep reflection. How do you see your employees, in terms of your business success? Do you see them as integral to the success of your business or do you see them as dime a dozen?
From my experience, approximately 90% of employees want their employers to succeed, they want what’s best for the business, but too often employers miss the point. And this becomes even more glaring when there is no viable competition. What we must always remember is that business is not static, so there will always be constant change. Are you hiring people with the requisite emotional intelligence to deal with your staff? How an employee feels and thinks about their place of employment is directly related to their direct report. Let me put this another way, the managers, and supervisors you hire or promote have a direct impact on the morale of your line staff. Are you hiring people with ‘Hitler’ type personalities because they have the technical skills? Do you consider IQ more important than emotional intelligence? In case you have not been keeping up with trends, emotional intelligence is a much more important skill for a leader, than an above average IQ.
It is important to look at the wellbeing of your employees in a holistic manner; do not just put programs together because it’s a box that must be checked. Do you really know the emotional and financial state of your employees? The American Psychological Association cites financial issues as the number one stressor. What are you doing to ensure that your employees are financially sound? And please don’t tell me you pay them. I am sure we all know of a company that has suffered financial losses because of misappropriation, and yes, those employees were being paid. The thing is, who teaches us how to deal with our finances? I remember talking to a manager about the financial health of his employees and he said that that he does not think it’s his business to help his employees with that. Let me ask you this? How engaged do you expect your employees to be when they come to work, thinking about how they are going to feed their family? How engaged are they going to be if they are wondering how they will make those loan payments or where they are getting bus fare to give their kids for school? This has an adverse effect on your business. When your employees spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone trying to get financial help, or when they ask for a salary advance every month, you know that they are in trouble. It is your duty as an employer to help them through this because it affects their productivity and your profitability.
How important is the HR function in your business, do you see it as a personnel role or do you see it as having more importance? What about the training and development of your staff? Do you view training as an enhancement to your business or do you see it as a waste of your financial resources? It is critical that you give the development of your employees the importance it deserves because, at the end of the day, their development is your development. You cannot hope to position yourself as a leader in your industry without employees that have the training, skills, and the emotional intelligence necessary to do the job. The question, therefore, should not be “What if we train them and they leave, but rather, what if we don’t train them and they stay?”
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net