One could say that since March of 2020—when the pandemic impacted businesses and individuals across the world unexpectedly—the world has changed forever. The advent of remote working opened up a possibility where employees can do their jobs from home, changing the dynamic of their relationship with their employer immensely. But the truth is, the traditional view of employee satisfaction has been challenged for the past 20 years, with employee engagement actually decreasing in spite of the best efforts of CEO’s and boards to better understand the effects of the company culture on morale. The current crisis is merely the latest bit of evidence that leadership needs to spend as much time assessing and managing the culture, or ecosystem, as they do the financial performance of the organization. Very few would argue that employee morale is an important factor in a company’s success, yet the pressure to produce results means that efforts to gauge the level of employee satisfaction and engagement are typically centered around archaic employee surveys that launch short-lived campaigns to improve the key deficiencies. Something as important as employee engagement needs to shift from merely a campaign to a proper audit and a strategic program is needed to ensure there is an emotional connection to the company’s core purpose….its mission.
Understanding what employees want
Gallup conducted a survey asking what employees want from their work and it came down to three basic things:
- To be connected to the company’s purpose in order to feel that the work is meaningful
- To feel like their contribution is important to the overall success of the company
- And, to be recognized for their contribution
To deliver these three outcomes requires context for the mission and vision statements as a fundamental explanation as to why the company exists, plus performance management systems that improve dialogue on historical performance, plus expectations for future growth and recognition programs that go beyond incentives to recognize and reward truly exceptional contributions.
The employee lifecycle
Breaking down the lifecycle of a career allows for strategic focus on each area from recruiting, to hiring, onboarding, technical training, capability and skill development and finally readiness for promotion or succession planning. Attention in each of the areas designed to provide employees the potential to take their career as far as they would like is an enormous investment in employee engagement. This answers the often unspoken question of “What’s in it for me?”, which is especially crucial in an economy where finding the right workers is harder than ever before.
The talent pipeline
Besides the benefit of higher employee engagement, retention and expansion of discretionary energy that results from having a unique value proposition for your employees, companies also benefit in another way. More and more, especially at higher levels in the company, the focus is on bringing someone in from the outside. Somehow, it’s more appealing to bring someone in from the outside for a “fresh set of eyes” than it is to promote someone from within….someone whom leadership may know better, but that means they know all the perceived flaws. Yet, in spite of endless changing of methodologies and psychoanalytical approaches, the success rate of hiring from the outside is very close to random….some report that it’s just over 50%! This is enormously costly, distracting and puts the entire culture at risk as the new executives bring in their favorite aspects of the culture they’re leaving, as well as a different set of values. Wouldn’t it be far more effective to put significant effort into upskilling existing employees and investing heavily on their readiness to assume higher roles? The executives I mentor are not only developing different perspectives on success in their current roles, we are actively preparing for growing one or even two levels higher. By the way, success rates of executives promoted from within are between 80-85%.
Working just as hard to satisfy and exceed expectations for employees as we do for customers is a different way to think about our most valuable resource and to not be reduced into a cost-based value proposition where the only value a company offers is in paying higher salaries than others. Besides not being a long-term motivator, this commoditization of the human resource is incredibly costly in terms of efficiency and productivity.
Let’s talk and I’ll show you some unique ways to audit your culture and the magic that results from engaged employees who connect with and believe in your purpose!