Employee Engagement can Make a Difference

This story came to me via Seth Godin’s blog and is called Sad Tim, and forms an ideal introduction to my post.

‘At the post office the other day, a guy wearing a beautiful handmade scarf finishes his transaction and starts away from the counter.

A small nail holding the moulding apparently isn’t hammered in all the way. It catches the scarf, pulls the threads and ruins the scarf. The man turns to the counter, looks at the postal worker who took his money and says, "There’s a loose nail here, it just ruined my scarf."

Tim, the postal worker, beaten down, tired, given up, stands behind the counter and barely makes eye contact. "Oh."

End of interaction.

When you allow (yes, allow) all humanity to be stripped from your day, all day, then what?’

Organisations are slowly realising that they NEED to change to differentiate themselves from the competition and the process that they use with employees is now called Employee Engagement. To  some it is just a buzzword but to others it is a strategy that sets their firm apart from another i.e. To become an Admired Company and preferred employer.

Managing your organization’s reputation has become one of the most important strategic imperatives for any organization. An Organization’s reputation is derived from the way the organization is perceived by its various stakeholders.

2137729430_11b29f9164_bThese perceptions are impacted and influenced to a large extent by how the organization behaves and performs. The engagement of the Employee stakeholder in this vital process is essential, as a reputation is built from the inside outward. Living the brand promise, changing employees into reputation builders and not destroyers and brand ambassadors is a vital strategy in this quest.

It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it. That’s why you need to take the measure of employee engagement at least once a year through anonymous surveys in which people feel completely safe to speak their minds.” — Jack Welch, Former CEO, General Electric

The employee stakeholder needs to be treated with care. Creating a positive work environment is of mutual benefit to employers and employees and builds loyalty. Employee communication programs should be designed to create opportunities for strengthening the relationships between employees and management. The many changes that the work fabric has encountered over the past 10 years have eroded the traditional loyalty approach that many employees had.

With constant cost cutting, restructuring, downsizing, mergers, employee equity drives and outsourcing happening all the time, employees must start to wonder when it will happen next at his area of work. Under the old “social contract” between employee and employer, the employee expected a lifetime or long-term job in exchange for regular promotions, benefits and a pension.

In the “new work order”, employees will seek short-term social contracts in which employee and employer will outline mutual commitments for each other’s success. Such agreements will be individually forged. “Making generalizations” about what will work for all employees is not realistic anymore.

In many research surveys on company loyalty, workers in hourly and customer service categories scored the lowest. While low wages in those categories are a factor, customer service workers had the lowest loyalty scores even after accounting for the effects of income. That finding may be a major cause for concern, one study said, because customer service workers are most likely to be in a position to influence customers’ perceptions of a company.

One study looked at six factors controlled by companies that could affect loyalty namely the direction the company is heading, work satisfaction, recognition and rewards, opportunity for growth, work environment and work/life balance. Companies need to give consideration to all six factors to improve employee commitment but some studies show that recognition and rewards and opportunities for growth need the most attention.

Companies need to evaluate themselves, and then decide what steps need to be taken. Too many companies are relying on resources and programs from the old social contract, the researchers said.

The bottom line is that employer – employee relations is at the ebb of change, and that it is now even more important to build these relationships. The role of the stakeholder reputation manager is to ensure that these relationships are important on both sides of the relationship.

Hewitt defines Employee Engagement as “The state of emotional and intellectual commitment of a person, group or organisation to the entity with whom they are employed.” Whilst another definition states that it is “employees who are mentally and emotionally invested in their work and in contributing to their employer’s success.”

A result achieved by stimulating employees’ enthusiasm for their work and directing it toward organizational success. To do this, engagement calls for striking a new bargain with employees: Organizations invest in creating the conditions that make work more meaningful and rewarding for employees. And employees, in return, pour extra effort into their work and delivering superior performance.

This means that the Employee Stakeholder needs to be carefully profiled and engaged.

Footnote – The above is an extract of my Strategic Employee Stakeholder Engagement program that I recently launched and facilitated in Malaysia and will repeat in Johannesburg from the 2nd – 3rd March. See http://employeestakeholdermanagement.invite43.com/ for more information.