If you’re reading blog posts from a staffing agency, this won’t surprise you at all: researchers say employees are leaving companies in record numbers, and those who haven’t left are on their way out. Employee engagement is shocking human resources professionals, at a low of 31%. A Gallup poll in 2014 registered that just under half of employees said they were “engaged” and 18% were “actively disengaged.”
Employees aren’t happy, not entirely, we know from the job searching going on from people who have seemingly great jobs. They’re looking for something better. So what does that mean for your hiring and retaining practices? What should you do to keep the employees you have, and to prepare for the great hires that you’ll find?
What anchors employee engagement?
1. Hear their opinions. Nothing drives an employee away faster than being ignored. You may not be able to change a company based on their feedback, but respond to employees who have suggestions and complaints. Explain what change would look like and what steps have to happen before you could accommodate their requests. Even if they’re whining about something unreasonable, you can outline action steps they can take (research the cost of a change, get other employees to sign onto an initiative, offer to lead an exploratory, etc.) so they feel empowered to either move an idea forward or stop being unrealistic.
2. Accommodate their preferences. When an employee want something reasonable, do it. More obviously, if they have a great idea, heed it. Someone wants yoga in the office? So easy to do. Somebody else wants to leave early Fridays and make up the work from home? Talk to their manager about how much more productive a happy employee can be. Have a policy that you’ll try anything reasonable and then make decisions based on results. Office snacks turned out to be way too expensive? Find a few people to rotate purchasing and leave out an honor-system payment jar, just to see if it works. Trying your best makes people more willing to work for you. And this makes sense, of course, because you’re asking them to try their best. Meet them more than halfway whenever you can.
3. Pay them a fair wage. Pay what’s right, based on skills, experience, industry averages, educational level, and worth to the company. Seriously. Don’t cheat an employee out of a few thousand dollars just because you can. It’ll come back to haunt you in reputation, employee loss, and company ill will. Look, you’re making money from these people. They’re giving you something you need. Pay up. And if you don’t know what is right, do the research. It’s worth it.
4. Offer career growth potential. Nobody wants to stay in a dead-end job. Actively scan the roster and see whose been in the same job too long. If they underperform, train them, counsel them, re-home them in another role…do what you need to do to make the right fit. If they’re performing well, show you notice. Offer them mentorship, more projects, more responsibilities, meetings with managers in other departments who have interesting and compelling jobs to offer someone who can stretch and grow…something. Staging in the same job with steady raises for a whole career is a relic of the 1950s. Baby Boomers are retiring, and so is the idea of lifelong employment.
5. Stand for something. Nobody can define this for you, because it’s what makes your company, your culture, your employees special. Maybe you focus on employee giving and make it central to your business. Maybe you celebrate silliness and failure enough that employees regularly invent and spearhead brilliant initiatives. Maybe you give what seems (to outsiders) like untoward attention to community involvement. Maybe your pro bono advertising campaigns drive lasting relationships with creatives and strategists. Maybe company groups focused on hobbies, like a company band or hacker group, just makes you too compelling to leave. Whatever it is, it’s not the quality of your snacks, the size of your gym, or the company policy on casual Friday. Think bigger than that. What would make you stay?