Employee engagement is becoming increasingly important, not only to attract and retain good talent, but to get the most out of a workforce. Employees want competitive pay, regular feedback, dynamic and current leadership and flexibility.
In its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey, Deloitte found that organisational culture, engagement, and employee brand proposition are top priorities this year. Nearly 80% of executives rated employee experience very important or important; but only 22% said their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience.
The survey states that a strong employee experience will in turn drive a strong customer experience.
Engagement is about how employees think, act and feel; how attracted they are to the organisation and how activated (high performing) they are, says Leslie Yuill, Deloitte actuarial, rewards and analytics lead.
The “holy grail” of engagement is the high-flyer employees. Highly activated and attractive to the organisation, they build good relations with employees and perform well.
Grumpy Gen X
In the 2017 Deloitte Best Company Survey, Generation X employees shocked reviewers in having the highest dissatisfaction levels with their employers or companies they work for, as compared to millennials.
“Gen X didn’t seem able to be pleased,” said Yuill. The highest levels of dissatisfaction were around pay.
The Deloitte sample was spread out age-wise, with 37% Gen X, 45% millennials and 18% baby boomers. Apart from the finding mentioned above, engagement and disengagement cut across organisations, and wasn’t defined by gender, race or generation.
Employees in surveyed organisations were particularly irked by competitive pay and benefits; equal pay and opportunity; trust; leadership; open and honest communication; feedback without fear of consequences; genuine care and concern; and delivering on promises.
Positively, about 68% of this year’s participants felt engaged.
A new order
But spare a thought for employers trying to keep up with an ever-changing world.
Trevor Page, Deloitte organisation transformation and talent leader, says the pace of digital change is moving faster than anyone can adapt to.
A challenge in employing technology is that younger talent is more savvy than those in leadership roles, who determine how much tech is used and tend to be baby boomers and Gen Xers. They don’t adapt as quickly as the younger talent you want to attract and retain, Ndivhu Nepfumbada, PPC cement group human resources executive, says.
Younger generations prefer to use tech rather than do things manually, and want to be able to work remotely. Organisations will need to attract and retain them.
“The human capital game has changed. The playing field has shifted. In this digital age there are new rules for everything,” says Yuill.
Getting the most from employees
Create an encouraging environment. To motivate top employees, give them a sense of purpose; create an environment where they feel empowered to work and can perform and innovate… “where people are without fear of backlash [and know] it’s ok to fail, but try,” says Nepfumbada.
Old dogs, learn new tricks. “A leader should not be the star of the show, but make sure it’s a great show. It’s no longer about you as a leader driving performance; it’s about building and leading teams constructively.
Traditional models assume leaders know best. When these leaders got negative feedback from employees, they were offended, unhappy with the messenger and didn’t deal with underlying issues. “We need a new breed of leader who isn’t offended by ongoing feedback,” he says.
Give employees feedback. Dan Schawbel on Forbes here, says more employees want continuous feedback on their performance. Annual performance reviews may phase out, in favour of more regular interactions.
Measure. Deloitte’s global trends survey suggests firms use candidate, stay and exit interviews, as well as ongoing performance conversations “to build a complete, real-time understanding of the issues your employees face”.
Stand up HR. Nepfumbada advises HR managers to be bold enough to challenge the status quo in their organisations.
Set them free. With apologies to a popular saying, if you invest in your employees, [don’t be afraid to] set them free. “High performers tend to want to change frequently – sometimes organisations don’t have room for growth for them. Sometimes what the organisation may see as the future in terms of their careers may not fit in with the [employee’s] aspirations,” she says, adding that these people could come back with a different outlook after having worked elsewhere.
“Millennials get bored very quickly and have a three-year career outlook,” said Aon South Africa head of employee engagement Zanele Dintwa, at a Gibs forum in February. Rather than see this as a threat, she advised organisations to create opportunities within which these employees can move and learn, as well as stay and contribute.
Then there are those who – no matter what you do – were not meant to be in your organisation, but end up there and are unhappy. “Ensure those people don’t become overwhelming in your organisation,” says Page.
Fix it. “Find out where your problem is – and do something about it.”
Much disengagement starts with dissonance in personal and the organisation’s values. In different areas in the organisation – whose culture may be empowering and enabling – leaders may create a subculture that doesn’t engender the organisation’s values, explains Nepfumbada. “People don’t leave organisations; they leave managers.”