The English poet John Donne penned these words in 1624: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main …”. Films, books and songs have been titled the same, and clichés are abundant. It takes a village. Stronger together. Teamwork and intelligence wins championships. Solitary confinement is punishing. The silent treatment can be hurtful. Humans are wired to connect with one another, to live, work and play together and develop meaningful relationships, even in the workplace. Long gone is the day that a worker trudged to a place of employment to put in a day’s work for a day’s wage to traipse back home eight hours later. Expectations then did not include seeing or talking to a manager, being invited to offer suggestions or receiving inquiries about one’s health and family. Slowly, open door policies evolved, as management began to realize the value of employee input. This may have come about for having an employee offer a wonderful unsolicited suggestion or taking that suggestion and starting a competitive business. Lean Management promoted continuous improvement. Six Sigma addressed process improvement. And today, these are all infiltrated with Employee Engagement, implementing a corporate culture that offers a comprehensive work-life balance and values employees not only for their skills and knowledge, but also energy, enthusiasm, ideas and career growth. The 21st century workplace is no longer just a place to put in time and collect a paycheck. Modern companies – small, medium and big – understand that workers are seeking jobs with interesting tasks which match their skills and knowledge, plus advancement opportunities and an environment where they are valued. According to Gallup’s recent report titled State of the American Workplace: Employees are willing to look and keep looking for a company that’s mission and culture reflect and reinforce their values. Organizations must hone their attraction strategies so they can more effectively recruit and hire sought-after candidates. Only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace. This means two-thirds are mediocre or downright unhappy, and potentially most of those are keeping their eyes open for new opportunities in other companies. And this employment coin has two sides which need to be constantly evaluated and adjusted ~ one for the business and one for the employee.
Appeal – The appeal of working for a specific business comes in many stripes. Branding is a multi-billion dollar industry for products and services, from logos and slogans to quality and customer satisfaction. A recognizable brand with an excellent reputation drives a powerful response and can catapult a company to unexpected success. Now it also falls to management to develop an employment brand which appeals to skilled, high quality workers who want to be part of its corporate culture. Interviews go both ways now – the hiring team interviews potential candidates while job seekers interview the company. Both sides evaluate conversations, tours, body language and resumes (literal and figurative) to determine if it’s a good, ideally long-term, match.
Some appealing attributes are:
- free parking
- clean, well-organized spaces
- gardens, fresh flowers
- ergonomic desks and chairs
- functional up-to-date equipment
- office/job supplies on hand
- suggestion box, newsletters, communication
- logo clothing
- transparent leadership
- bonuses, stock options
Creating appeal is a conscious strategy in developing a workplace which attracts the kind of workers you seek. The average U.S. employee is 44 years old, and most medium or large businesses surely cross multi-generational and cultural lines. Each company can define the ideal employee by demographic and other factors and find out what is important to these people. Millennials are a huge component of the workforce, and like the baby boomers a couple generations before them, they are redefining values and demanding work environments which excite them, motivate them, intrigue them and improve them.
Benefits – The traditional concept of benefits had health insurance, vacation time and sick leave policies. While these are still very important, the new model may include:
- flexible work time and place
- showers and lockers
- fitness center, gym membership, wellness plan
- expansive coffee stations and free snacks
- tuition reimbursement
- one-on-one mentor sessions
- picnic tables
- lactation space for new moms
- nursery/day care on site
- brainstorming sessions
- company product/service discount
- unpaid sabbatical or volunteer opportunities
- motivational speakers
- team building excursions
According to Glassdoor Economic Research, the greatest impact on employee satisfaction is Culture & Values, followed by Career Opportunities, Senior Leadership and Work-life Balance. “At first glance, we were surprised to see an employee’s culture and values rating so much more important for job satisfaction than compensation and work-life balance ratings, since the latter two factors are frequently discussed in the HR world. However, on further reflection, an employee’s culture and values rating probably represents a combination of factors that contribute to overall well-being such as company morale, employee recognition, and transparency within the organization.” [Glassdoor Economic Research, glassdoor.com]
Commitment – Herein lies yet another two-sided philosophy ~ the company has a commitment to the employee for wages, benefits and maintaining a positive, engaging corporate culture, while the employee commits to working hard and smart to advance the firm’s mission statement, reputation, products and services. The hierarchy is dissolving, and the ivory towers crumbling. Everyone is on the same team to be the best he or she can be in each job. There is only one quarterback on the field, so to speak, but there are many others fulfilling diverse work requirements that contribute to the entire corporate wheel turning for success. When a company nurtures, inspires, engages and treasures its employees, those employees will work and produce with outstanding enthusiasm and fervor.
To stay with alphabet soup of Employee Engagement, there is Dedication, Excellence, Fellowship wrapping up with Xylocarp (for healthy snacks), Yearning (to see company and self succeed) and Zealous (for achievement in a exceptional corporate culture). Employee Engagement may sound like a new buzz phrase, and it is, but deeper down, it is a sound approach to recruiting, hiring and retaining the best employees to assure success for them as well as for the business.