Contributor: Dr. Rod Hewlett
As HR professionals, we're given the opportunity to pilot the ship of our businesses, providing (at times) under-the-radar guidance and leadership to employees and management at every level. Human resource professionals play a significant role in creating an empowered and engaged workforce that will drive business and successfully fulfill customer needs. Though this is not a foreign concept to most, I still hear of HR departments who fail to recognize the benefits of strong employee engagement. These departments remain stuck in the routine of performing the minimum requirements, such as basic recruitment instead of talent placement and development, or merely acting as a first-day point of contact rather than establishing an initial orientation and education program with ongoing follow-up. The problem is that this bare bones HR approach can be mistaken for a well-oiled machine, yet businesses can’t quite put a finger on why they're experiencing communication gaps, employee turnover and resource misuse. Technically, these HR professionals aren’t doing their jobs incorrectly. They're just not doing enough to set employees up for success.
An organization can say that they're engaging their employees as much as they please, but employee motivation and satisfaction cannot be sustained with one quarterly empowerment workshop or a monthly group lunch. The rate at which employees are engaged and driven is relative to the daily environment that is provided for them. Creating a workspace that encourages a resilient work ethic and smart business choices will perpetuate a happy employee because the company will naturally experience a higher rate of success.
Here are two goals to consider when driving employee engagement as an HR professional:
Some companies still believe that the more they pay, the more employee retention they'll experience. This is also known as the "golden handcuffs" or the "I can't leave because they pay me too well" mentality. Though an employee may be more apt to stay longer, this doesn't necessarily mean they actually believe in the overall mission of the organization. Dollars don't build loyalty, and HR pros need to be aware of this during the recruitment process. Searching for qualified candidates that also possess the same values and objectives will help build trustworthiness and security for both the company and the new hire. Employees that share a passion for their company’s vision will feel a greater sense of exclusivity, and most importantly, they'll do what it takes to please their customers.
Staying up to date on the status of technological advancements, the economy, and most importantly, the internal needs of the organization is vital to employee retention and engagement. Knowing the needs (and wants) of the employees, and what is currently available to facilitate them, can help everyone feel like they're playing for the same team. For example, new CEO of Yahoo Marissa Meyer made sure everyone in the company received an iPhone 5, if they so chose, and paid their data plans, calling it "smart fun."Their angle was to make sure the employees were using the same mobile devices as their customers so they could think and work alongside them. In doing this, they pleased both the employee and customer, creating greater engagement through technology, which is Yahoo's life-force. It is planned implementations such as this that can build a solid team and keep people genuinely happy. At times, human resource departments forget about the freedom they have to redesign incentive structures and to initiate position reassignments that elicit newness and excitement among employees — ultimately leading to company growth and a fresh perspective.
There are several ways to help employees stay engaged and motivated in their individual paths. I've found in my own practices that the best employee engagement comes from human resource professionals who understand the psychology of internal and external relationships within an organization and do their best to draw upon this culture to help them maintain or reach success. The balance of an organization comes from a smart blend of creativity, analytics, awareness and fearlessness, and many times it begins and ends and with Human Resources.
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