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Employee Engagement: Why Corporate Culture is Important and Advice for Managers

At Elevate, we hear the motivations and aspirations of hiring managers looking to expand their teams: they talk about critical skills, essential core competencies, desired experience, but rarely on their initial requirement overview, are values spoken about, why their company is a great place to work, what the team environment is like, what characterizes the corporate culture, and when we probe into these areas, and more.

The hiring managers often find it difficult to articulate just why theirs is a great organization to be part of. “It just is” isn’t good enough in a competitive hiring market. What this highlights:

  • a lack of communication around corporate values and how they are a lived everyday reality within the organization.
  • why the company mission is important and relatable to staff and.
  • how the company vision involves everyone’s contribution.
  • the need for frequent company-wide assertions, both subtle and overt, that yours is a great company to work for.

Why is it important that all employees not just know that theirs is a great company to work for, but can readily assert it and feel it? Because it points to an engaged employee who feels a sense of belonging. And because it subliminally emanates a positive association with their employer to candidates they are interviewing, thereby instilling, from the very start, a positive association for the new hire. This first point of contact is essential to get right and can be the differentiating factor in attracting top talent.

Every company has a different hiring strategy: some will host multiple rounds of interviews; some will utilize DISC and other assessments to determine candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. I take the long view and feel that amongst the most important factor to determine is the candidates fit within the organization. In one sense, this can be analysed by how aligned their values are with those of the organization, and this is important because at this initial stage, you are determining how effective your engagement and retention strategy will be with this new hire. Will your current model serve them well? If so, the chances are they will be a long term success for your organization. If not, you may have to change your model.

In the absence of a clear engagement and retention strategy, perks are introduced to boost scores, but over time the effect wears off and scores go back down. Another perk is introduced, and scores go back up — and then they fall again. The more this cycle repeats itself, the more it feels like manipulation. People begin to recognize the short-term fixes for what they are.

When organizations make real gains, it’s because they’re thinking longer-term. They’re going beyond what engagement scores are telling them to do in the moment and redesigning employee experience, creating a place where people want, not just need, to work each day. But what does that mean, and what does it look like?

Most people would like to have a job, a boss, and a workplace they can engage with, as well as work that gives them a sense of purpose. You can take heart, most employees will actively try to maintain a high level of engagement, even if many of them struggle to succeed.

Few things are more critical to an organization’s success than having an engaged workforce. When employees are engaged, they display high levels of enthusiasm, energy, and motivation, which translates into higher levels of job performance, creativity, and productivity. This means not only higher revenues and profits for organizations, but also higher levels of well-being for employees. In contrast, low engagement results in burnout, higher levels of turnover, and counterproductive work behaviors such as bullying, harassment, and fraud.

In our experience, about 35% of hiring managers struggle to energetically articulate positively the atmosphere and culture of their work environment. This points to a lack of engagement. Of the 65% of hiring managers we speak with, they display a genuine and often very palpable enthusiasm for their organization.

Some of the exciting insights hiring managers here are sharing with us that illustrate their engagement and retention practices are the following:

  • Their company is doing more for employees by way of training and development so that there is less chance of stagnation, and more opportunity for skills development, particularly in environments where upward mobility is restricted because of the organisation’s size.
  • There are organisations here who have tremendous emphasis on being healthy, promoting a healthy mind and body in pursuit of overall wellbeing. Internal group challenges foster team effort, collaboration on an indirect business benefit and serve to create a community of participation that is a very powerful tool of engagement.
  • Given the international presence of some organisations, they have realized that offering staff more flexibility in their time management is a way of demonstrating that they trust in their people to get the job done. Management supervision is less about ‘bums on seats’ and office ‘face time’. This creates an environment of trust that is justified by high key performance indicators.
  • We hear from hiring managers that they offer the ability to work from home – this appeals to some employees, who are more productive in a non-traditional office environment and thrive in the freedom and responsibility of managing their own time at home.
  • We have one client who encouraged a staff member to take a semi-sabbatical so that the employee could backpack around the world for a year, plug in at an internet café to stay connected with clients, and return to their job. While this is not feasible in many situations, it has been done, and the result is guaranteed long term commitment to that company.
  • Increasingly we find that Millennials are more socially conscious and ask about community involvement initiatives and charity matching programmes. One company will allocate cash to employees to give to their favourite charity cause. These demonstrations of giving back resonate with younger employees who see themselves and their organisations as widely interconnected social organisms. When including Millennials in your engagement strategy, it is their enthusiasm and fresh way of thinking that has to be harnessed and can be channeled into revitalizing teams who are struggling with transition and retention.
  • Larger organisations with a younger staff population specifically create a mentoring network to foster engagement; some will create a platform for younger staff to share their input on strategy so that they feel they are contributing and are being heard.
  • An emphasis on education assistance has long been a factor of the corporate environment here. With an aging workforce, we are now seeing scholarships and bursaries being provided to grandchildren of long-serving employees.
  • A creative way of encouraging positive feedback is employed by one company who has a points reward system. For positive feedback provided on a colleague, that employee earns points. These can be accrued and redeemed for extra time off.
  • Familiar to most people is the provision of yoga instructors, massage therapists, free meals, enforced lunch break, designated parking, annual flight allowance amongst others.

Implementing these perks needs to be done in a meaningful way that aligns with your organisations’ values. They also need to resonate with your employees in order to have the effect of retention.

When at the crossroads of engagement and retention, we all become change agents for our organization, we all have a part to play in accelerating our cultural evolution. Let’s celebrate and recognise success, progress, achievements and incremental improvements and changes. Let’s embrace the ability and willingness to change quickly for the good of the team and its performance. Let’s create great employee experiences. As we plan for that last half of 2019 let’s reflect on how we are really coping within ourselves, our teams and organisations, so that the road ahead can be mapped for success.

For more on employee engagement contact Sylvia Jones and her team at Elevate Executive Selection Bermuda Ltd. on Tel: +441 296 8663 or visit https://elevateselection.com/.

Sylvia Jones is the director of Elevate Executive Selection’s Bermuda Operations and has been lending her vast knowledge of the recruitment process to the continued success of her clients and candidates alike.

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