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Engage and retain staff in 2014 and beyond

17th Mar 2014

It’s a common misconception that an individual’s performance at work is based solely on just their capability. Whilst possessing the right skills and abilities is important, in today’s competitive business world, it is based on so much more than this.  

The silent threat of ghost turnover

The period of economic recession played host to a stagnanting pool of talent. Suffering from uncompetitive reward and constrained training and development budgets, staff stayed in their current roles, not because of job satisfaction but because of job security. This is known as ‘ghost turnover’ – employees who want to leave their current jobs but can’t due to a lack of alternative or secure opportunities.

However, as the economy is perceived to be improving and new job opportunities are emerging, the market is ripe for a mass exodus of talent. But how can employers ensure they recruit and retain the right staff, and make those that stay feel more valued and engaged?

Make it personal

The first step in improving engagement is realising that organisations consist of individuals – people with different backgrounds, different aspirations and very different motivations. Our research, for example, indicates that 27% consider ‘stimulation’ as the strongest motivation – a term that refers to being sociable and having fun at work – while 39% indicate a strong motivation for ‘learning’. This means that organisations who think that the answer to increased motivation is more learning and development opportunities, will in actual fact only have the potential to engage up to 39% of the workforce at best. The remaining 61% are likely to continue feeling somewhat disengaged and unclear as to the aim of more learning which doesn’t motivate them.  

Employers need to recognise these differentiators and treat their employees as individuals in order to increase engagement levels. This means establishing what motivates employees and then following it through with positive changes. Whilst employee satisfaction surveys can provide insight into overall engagement levels, they must be complemented by assessments to identify the factors that motivate the individuals within the organisation and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to engagement.

Get to know your staff

The key to improving employee engagement is understanding what actually engages individuals and this can start as early as the recruitment phase. When bringing individuals into an organisation you need to know what engages them and whether the organisation will be able to meet these engagement needs – we call this ’engagability’ – the potential for someone to be engaged at a certain organisation.

You can do this by assessing the factors that motivate the individual and how this compares with your organisation. For example, if an individual is motivated by affiliating with others and values positive social contact at work, organisations needs to review whether this motivation is likely to be met by the role and organisation. Are they going to be in a sociable environment, or are they likely to be working in isolation more often than not?

For existing staff, it’s about re-engaging them in a way that best motivates them. Traditionally, compensation and bonuses have been considered the most powerful tools for recruiting and retaining employees. However this method often doesn’t work, as money is known to be limited in its ability to motivate professional employees in the long term. As a result, organisations need to think more creatively, and understand what would motivate the individual, before implementing a new reward structure or benefits scheme. Otherwise, it’s like a doctor prescribing medicine without first understanding the ailment.

A failure to understand what motivates individuals will not only disengage employees, but also stifle their performance and push them towards the exit door. In contrast however, if managers do demonstrate an understanding of individual motivation, then they have the power to boost engagement and importantly retain their employees for the long-term. 

Empower the line manager relationship

Whilst our latest research suggests the tides are changing and people are increasingly leaving organisations and not their managers, line managers still have an intrinsic role to play in the engagement of employees. Yet often, they don’t have the skillsets or knowledge to motivate staff at an individual level. In instances like this, it can lead to dissatisfied employees and frustrated managers.

By equipping line managers with the ability to understand what engages their individual team members, line managers themselves will be able to increase individual engagement and in turn, build a stronger team. Organisations that recognise this, and provide line managers with the method, skills and resources to engage individuals in their teams will see a dramatic difference in levels of engagement and staff turnover.

By getting engagement ‘right’, organisations have the opportunity to build a stronger, more motivated and productive workforce, which is key to driving business outcomes such as increased revenue and higher customer satisfaction. Improving engagement doesn't need to be a drain on time or finances, however, organisations do need to act now, before it’s too late.

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By Steve Smith 0
24th Mar 2014 13:13

Completely agree with the argument that engagement has to be personal. We've always found our clients get more value from a survey when it is fully bespoke and the reports drill right down to each individual's personality and what they value. When an employee feels like their individuality counts they are naturally going to engage in their work more and feel less like a number. This is obviously a challenge for larger organisations but it certainly can be done!

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