By Wendy Ferguson – BHRLR, CPHR – Ferguson HR Consulting
No matter how big or small your company is in Canada’s energy industry, your employees have to be engaged for your company to be successful. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard an interview candidate say that since they spend most of their time at work, they want to work for a company where they enjoy going to work, their own job and the people around them. Conversely, I can’t recall anyone not wanting to be a good organizational fit or ever intending to become “disengaged” at work. Everyone wants to belong and make an important contribution, but often when you fast-forward a few months or years, many of these same employees have become disengaged. What happened? Why is it so hard for employers to keep employees engaged?
Countless articles have been written on employee engagement, many as a result of the numerous surveys that have been conducted on the subject. Yet employee engagement remains a major concern in most organizations. According to the 2013 Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, shockingly only 13% of global employees are engaged. As well, according to a 2011 Psychometrics study on engagement in the Canadian workplace, 69% of HR Professionals claimed engagement was a problem in their organizations.
To start off on a positive note here, it’s important to remember what engaged employees offer to an organization. These are workers who are committed, loyal and demonstrate high levels of performance. They will often do more than what is expected. They have better working relationships. Their customers are satisfied. They have fewer absences and there is less turnover. These engaged employees not only understand the company’s vision, but they can articulate it and they understand how their performance contributes to the organization.
Conversely, disengaged employees generally end up with poor attitudes, lower productivity and dysfunctional work relationships. Absenteeism is elevated and ultimately, so is employee turnover. Interestingly, when employees are disengaged, they tend to remain with their organizations for some time and invariably have a negative impact on the working environment. These employees have literally ‘checked out’, but continue to undermine the efforts of those around them and affect the output of the organization. When you read this, do you begin to picture someone who has ‘checked out’ or become a lazy employee in your workplace? But, at one point, this ‘someone’ was the SAME short-listed candidate with high hopes of succeeding in your organization. So, what went wrong?
Sometimes the root cause of disengagement is making a bad hire to begin with…meaning the job requirements were not correctly matched to the employee’s skill set during the recruiting process. In that case, if the employer failed to properly train and develop the new employee to ultimately fit the roll, it is a disaster in the making. I’m not at all opposed to hiring for attitude or potential, but employers need to be mindful of the long-term investment required in this situation and have realistic expectations.
More often than not, though, there is a subtle shift from engagement to disengagement that occurs over time. In my experience, quality leadership initiates and upholds employee engagement – meaning an organization’s approach to management is the single best means to engage its workforce. Rather than placing the onus on the employee, it is ultimately the responsibility of those who can influence the organization’s work environment and processes (senior leaders and management) to lift the workforce to its potential.
Surprisingly, most strategies that produce employee engagement are relatively easy to implement and are not costly for companies. So what should leaders be doing differently to achieve employee engagement?
- regularly communicate expectations to employees and provide regular feedback
- actively listen to their employees opinions, ideas and concerns
- provide recognition and celebrate or reward progress and accomplishments
- improve the lives of employees by enhancing staff’s wellbeing and balance
- form positive work relationships amongst the staff
- consistently communicate the direction and strategy of the organization
- provide the opportunity to learn new skills
- allow employees to control how they perform their work
- find creative ways to give back – a company can promote a sense of community by allowing their staff to volunteer to help those less fortunate
Interestingly enough, financial rewards and career advancement can only go so far with retaining staff and are not found to improve engagement relative to the other tactics above.
I would argue that close to everyone who enters an organization or transfers into a new role has the hope of being successful, but quite often we fail in this regard. It is not up to employees to engage themselves. It is up to organizational leaders to foster a culture of engagement. Managers need to be equipped with the leadership skills listed above in order to set employees up for success. It’s no surprise that companies with engaged employees will always outperform those who do not, so executing an employee engagement strategy is an imperative investment in all organizations.
About Wendy Ferguson
Wendy Ferguson is an Alberta based Human Resources Generalist and Consultant with over 15 years of combined experience in the areas of HR, Business Administrative Management and Marketing.
She has worked within a broad range of industries, including: oil & gas, architecture, law, information technology, engineering, accounting and business consulting firms. She works with companies on both a full time and part time consulting basis to help them address their HR management, recruitment and policy needs.
She is also a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR). CPHRs are uniquely qualified to help you achieve your business goals. With proven expertise across nine key business metrics, a CPHR has the knowledge and the experience to address the factors that underpin the degree of your immediate and long term success.
For your HR requirements contact Wendy at email@example.com
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