By Erik Hobbins
In a recent post, James Finnan wrote about the results of a Randstad engagement study and identified the top 5 things employees said helped them stay engaged, along with the percentage of employers who provide these things.
On the surface, they seem like fairly simple or common sense actions or accommodations:
• Reward and promote top performers
• Be flexible on work location and hours
• Provide a comfortable and stimulating work environment
• Encourage the sharing of ideas and opinions
• Provide or support training, professional development and continuing education
But in reality, they're not always easy to provide.
Some of them, like rewards, promotions, training and a comfortable work environment, come with an obvious price tag. And the cultural ones, like encouraging the sharing of ideas and opinions, flexible work hours/location and a stimulating work environment, can be harder to foster.
They require a whole different kind of effort.
Management isn't always willing to spend money in the hopes of boosting employee engagement — something that can be a bit hard to define and measure, and harder to measure the financial impact of.
But make no mistake, there is a financial impact to employee disengagement.
In State of the American Workplace, Gallup says that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. They peg the cost of actively disengaged employees between $450 and $550 billion each year.
They say employee disengagement costs you in terms of:
• Customer ratings
So managers and leaders need to step back and ask themselves if they can really afford NOT to do something about employee engagement, especially in the IT sector where experienced, skilled workers are perennially in short supply.
WHAT SHOULD YOU INVEST IN TO INCREASE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT?
The question isn't whether you should invest in ways to boost employee engagement, it's where you should spend your money to get the most bang for your buck.
Based on the Gallup research results, the obvious answers would seem to be:
• Employee training and development
• Employee rewards
• Office space/furniture/accoutrements
I'd suggest that the most important investment you can make is in training your managers to be effective talent managers.
The Gallup's State of the American Workplace says that "Managers who focus on their employees’ strengths can practically eliminate active disengagement and double the average of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide."
There's lots of other research that points to the vital role managers play in employee engagement and retention. In fact, it's often said that employees don't leave their companies — by taking another job or "checking out" from their existing one — they leave their managers.
MANAGEMENT IS NOT AN INNATE SKILL
In most fields, people get promoted to management because of their strong professional or technical skills, not because of their people management skills. This might be especially true in IT.
But once you become a manager, you really need to be great at things like: giving feedback and coaching, setting goals, communicating organizational goals and helping employees see how their work/goals link to these, fostering teamwork, leveraging your employees' strengths, recognizing and rewarding performance, developing your employees, onboarding new staff, grooming key contributors and management/leadership successors, dealing with poor performance… The list goes on.
These aren't innate skills. Managers have to learn and practice them. But managers who master them usually find they have a workforce that is highly competent, performing and engaged.
And the only way to learn them is through training, mentoring, coaching…
THE BEST INVESTMENT YOU'LL EVER MAKE
So if you're worried about employee engagement and are ready to take steps to improve it, start by investing in developing your managers' talent management skills. It's the best investment you'll ever make.
Erik Hobbins is an Account Executive at Halogen Software.
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