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Employee Engagement: The Holy Grail of Talent Management

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"Only 15 percent of the world's one billion full-time workers are engaged at work. It is significantly better in the United States, at around 30 percent engaged, but this still means that roughly 70 percent of American workers aren't engaged. It would change the world if we did better," wrote Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO at Gallup, in his recent blog.

Employee engagement has been the elusive holy grail for most managers, regardless of industry sectors or geographic territories. How can managers and leaders increase engagement in their organizations to boost productivity and improve profitability?

My experience as a CEO of one of the largest brokerage houses in the Caribbean led me to identify five things any CEO can do to improve employee engagement in their organization. My team and I were able to achieve an engagement level of over 80 percent, one of the highest in the industry and in the region, primarily by using these five factors.

1. Recruit Right

Employee engagement starts before a person is even recruited by the company. That might sound a bit odd, but you cannot expect great engagement from someone who was just picked off the street and given a job with no burning desire to work for your company. Employees who really want to work for you are more likely to start off being highly engaged than employees who just want a job. Therefore, you will notice that companies that have great employee engagement are usually hard to get into in the first place; they place several barriers before you can enter as an employee. Some Silicon Valley companies put candidates through at least a half-dozen hoops—tests, interviews, a lunch outing, even a team sport, to see how candidates perform in technical, informal, and team environments.

Make sure you take the time to get to know the person you are bringing into the organization—determine whether they have the right skills and, more importantly, if they have the right attitude to fit into your culture. Once you have hired an individual, make sure their onboarding process is smooth and effective. Assign a buddy on the first day to show them around and make them feel welcome.


2. Recognize Employees

Employee engagement takes a nosedive when employees are not recognized appropriately for their contributions. Any organization that follows a proper recruitment process offers employment only to those they feel will make a positive contribution. Therefore, any time they make a positive contribution, acknowledge and celebrate them—not just by patting them on the back, but by noting what exactly they did and how it made a positive impact to the organization. Catch them doing right.

3. Reward Them, Too

Is your reward system structured appropriately to ensure continued engagement? What gets rewarded gets repeated. An organization that is clear about what behaviors it wants from its employees, and rewards them consistently for those behaviors, is far more likely to ensure greater level of engagement.

When it comes to rewards, one size surely does not fit all. A reward that may be very motivating to one person may not motivate another. Recently, an organization that wanted to improve sales offered a cash reward to its sales force. While it motivated some, it did nothing to motivate others who would have appreciated something more suited to their personal preference, like a cruise trip for two (of the same value). It is the difference between placing some cash in an envelope and handing it as a gift to a friend, instead of taking the time to know what your friend would like, and getting that for them. It shows how much you know about them—and how much you care.


4. Respond to Ideas

Engaged employees want to shape the organization. They want to be heard. They want their ideas to be considered seriously and, if appropriate, implemented. Listen to what your employees are saying. Establish many different channels through which they can voice their ideas. When you hire someone, remember: you hired them not just for their hands and back, but for their brain as well. Respond to their suggestions appropriately and in a timely manner. Have a democratic process to identify good ideas, and give them the opportunity to implement the same.

5. Remove or Reevaluate as Necessary

Every manager has a responsibility to make the hard decision to terminate an employee if it doesn’t work out. The earlier you do this, the better it is for both the employee and the organization. The rest of the team will respect you, and your clarity of what is acceptable performance and what’s not. Engagement levels invariably fall when the organization tolerates mediocrity and does not have the courage to weed out the bad apples.

Having a highly engaged workforce is the number 1 job of any managerial leader. Implementing these five practices can help make that job less of a challenge. Learn more during my session on this topic at the ATD 2018 International Conference & EXPO on Monday, May 7.

About the Author

Ram Ramesh is the executive chairman of Caribbean Centre for Leadership Development, a leading management and leadership development company in the Caribbean. The center helps managers lead their teams and achieve extraordinary results. Ram has more than 30 years’ experience in leading and managing successful organizations in the Caribbean and elsewhere. He has worked with top multinational consultancy firms, such as PWC and KPMG, and was CEO of one of the largest investment brokerage house in the Caribbean. He is a regular speaker at many international forums, a newspaper columnist, and author of a popular book for financial analysts.

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Employee Engagement Programs are truly valuable and worthy of doing. However without providing a measured Return on Investment, in terms of actually tracking the NET results to the company (overall, not an isolated program) these valuable programs become a victim of economic downturns or budget cuts in favor of other company initiatives that do show an ROI.
www.eepm-roipro over 25 years of success using a proven method of ROI (by both actual use in over 800 cases and by independent study)
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While all of these engagement suggestions are fine, none of them focus on the managerial system. A great manager in a lousy management system underperforms, just like a mediocre manager excels in a great managerial system. This Forbes article "Why Engagement Fails and What to do About it" provides more context:
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