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In today’s economy, we all inevitably know friends and family who have been unemployed for long durations over the last five years. I often overhear leaders and employees alike, repeating that famous mantra “we are all replaceable”. I have never agreed with that statement, and at the Mandt System, we strive to cultivate the importance of employees within an organization; yours and ours. It is not easy in today’s transitional workforce to replace decades of experience, some of which can never be regained. Employee engagement is one key strategy to retaining your most valuable resource; your employees.

Overall, employee engagement is one of today’s most important business issues. Those organizations – both private and public – who take the time to pay attention to what it means to value employees reap financial and productivity rewards.

Most companies (75 percent) try to measure employee engagement through a variety of means including work satisfaction surveys and exit interviews. In addition to the reported level of engagement, organizations use other measures such as retention, organizational or mission performance based upon planning goals, increased levels of employee productivity, and financial and/or mission success.

A major point in all the research is that the best way to increase employee engagement is to focus on creating an organizational culture of engagement and value of it’s employees. Organizational culture can be defined as the practices, shared mindset and ethics of an organization. Once the culture is created, engagement becomes ‘the way we do things around here’ and it does not have to be recreated year after year. It becomes an established norm for operating and adding valuing the workforce and its contribution to organizational success.

Two-way Feedback

Most organizations do well in terms of communication down from management to employees. What are often missing are mechanisms for employees to communicate up on a regular basis. This is key to improving your leadership and your workforce. Relying on a suggestion box and an annual employee survey just doesn’t do the job anymore. Two helpful ways to ensure the upward flow of feedback are:
1. Employee town meetings or get-togethers
2. Quarterly, brief, online surveys the capture the changing concerns of employees.

Trust in Leadership

This is the single most prominent issue that comes from employees. Trust can be shattered instantly when senior leaders or executives appear to suddenly change directions or seem to break promises. Building trust is a slower process. Senior leaders and executives build trust by developing a clear vision of the organizations’ future and communicating this to all employees in ways that are relevant and achievable.

Career Development

Engagement levels rise when there is a formal career development system that includes components such as formal career tracks, mobility systems to help employees move about in the organization, and annual career conversations. Helping employees to manage a good work/life balance is key in these career conversations.

Employees Understand Their Role in Organizational / Mission Success

Employees need to understand how their job fits into the big picture and what they must do more of and do differently to help the business succeed. Distinguishing between vision and mission is important in this regard. The vision offers a future ideal for the organization to strive toward; while the mission speaks to the work the organization does, for whom, and to what end. What follows is each organizational component strategically defining and their purpose toward that mission with actionable goals and objectives and proper allocation of resources and staff, and evidence of efforts and success related to those goals and objectives.

Shared Decision-making

When employees participate in making decisions, they feel more engaged in the organization. Decision-making needs to be extended down to the lowest possible level on as many issues as possible. This helps employees attain “ownership” within the organization, and research has shown when employees feel like they are equity stakeholders, their productivity rises exponentially.

Those who are skeptical of the value of employee engagement, only have to consider this brief question:

Where and what would your organization be without your employees?

Sally Phipps – Mandt System Faculty

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