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Engagement & Long-Term Love, A Fairy Tale

Mike Carden

Vice President Small Business Operations

Once upon a time...The economy had been through a period of prolonged stress (in case you hadn’t noticed). It was still a bit shaky and nervous and jumped at loud noises. This hit employee engagement hard; it’s difficult committing to something that might vanish in a puff of smoke at any moment.

Suddenly companies had gone from focusing on employer brand - doing everything they could to seem like a great place to work (in-chair massages, free fruit, office puppies...) - to perk-busting. When the economy started to tank, employees everywhere heard the dreaded words: "We can’t afford to give you the cool stuff now. In fact, we need to either cut your gold by 10%, or we will have to banish 10% of the workforce! You must choose - the lesser of two evils!"

So employees chose one or the other, and companies did that. Then, 3 months later they did the other as well. The managers who had to deliver this double-barreled evil weren’t well coached on the best way to communicate the bad news. In fact, a lot of managers just went and hid. Who can blame them?

Engagement: The Fairy Ideal

But then the brave economy rallied and good employees upset over the loss of perks, pay and co-workers during the recession were all looking for jobs elsewhere, because the grass is always greener(!), and so engagement was at an all-time low.

So everyone started running about trying to fix engagement because otherwise all their good people would leave, and that would be a different kind of bad. But cutbacks and layoffs had damaged trust and it was going to take something more fundamental than matching team tracksuits to repair it.

So, given that engagement and financial performance seem to go hand in hand (though we’re not sure if it’s correlated, causal, or which causes which) what magic formula could be concocted to rebuild employee engagement, improve financial performance, and kickstart a victorious spiral of success?

The Magic Formula: HR Fundamentals

  • Performance: Set clear goals for people, and make sure performance is clearly measured. Show people that you actually have a way of identifying those who make a difference and those that don’t.

  • Learning & Development: Show people how they are going to get a great career at your place, and that you’re dedicated to helping them improve.

  • Recognition: Show people in really tangible ways that you recognize great performance. Show that good people are recognized, and that there is a difference in the way that good performers and poor performers are treated.

This is much simpler than employer brand. This is not about the office puppy, foosball tables or the massage therapist. This is about fixing engagement quickly. Because you need to. Before your good people are led away by the Pied Competitor Piper.

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