Once an employee has agreed to join a company, they will have expectations about what it’s like to work in that company. These expectations will be based on your external brand promise, as well as the implicit and explicit promises made to the employee during their interview process.
You must work hard to meet those expectations in order to retain that employee. According to TalentKeepers, Inc, “59% of all attrition is occurring in the first year of employment and begins declining only after the 1-2 year period.” That is not an HR issue. This is a serious business issue. And a costly one, at that.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about “employee engagement”. In 2006, The Conference Board published “Employee Engagement, A Review of Current Research and Its Implications”. In that publication, they defined employee engagement as “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work”.
Among the key factors that create that emotional connection include:
- Trust and integrity
- Nature of the job
- Line of sight between employee performance and company performance
- Career growth opportunities
- Pride about the company
- Coworkers/team members
- Employee development
- Relationship with one’s manager
The study also notes that an employee who is truly engaged is not only likely to stay with a company, but will also significantly outperform their disengaged coworkers by 20-28 percent.
Clearly, having an engaged workforce helps a company become more successful. And equally clearly, those things that help employees become more engaged are within the purview of the company to create and/or change. So why don’t companies pay more attention to this topic?
The answer is that CEO’s don’t know how to pay attention to this topic. Some of these things, such as “trust and integrity” seem nebulous and a bit generic. Others like “relationship with one’s manager” seems like something other people should worry about. I disagree.
One of the most important things a CEO can do is to pay attention to the success and happiness of his people. At the end of the day, a CEO’s worth is measured by how much he can inspire, motivate and lead people to all work towards a common goal via a common methodology in an environment that is most conducive to business success. That’s it. Sales, marketing, engineering, etc. are actually all ancillary to this main focus. Not that these functions aren’t important. They obviously are. But a CEO’s value is not in selling, or programming code, or creating marketing campaigns. It is in leading people who lead people who lead people who perform these functions.
Equally responsible for employee engagement is the HR leader of an organization. The factors influencing engagement mentioned above are all clearly within the purview of her role as head of human resources. Her team creates and drives the initiatives that make the company either a worthwhile or a worthless place to work.
The HR leader and the CEO are a true team in this endeavor and the HR leader should both coach and guide the CEO to be successful in this work. She is the one with the background, experience and toolkit to help promote and manage employee engagement. It is also the HR leader who should make the initial diagnosis of the issues within the organization and make recommendation for changes to promote a higher degree of employee engagement. In my next blog post, I’ll discuss the importance of ensuring that engagement is not based solely on compensation.