Old is Gold to Engage Employees

by Jody Ordioni

It might be quite unbelievable, but the term ‘employee engagement’ (which has gained a lot of traction in the past years) has been around only for a quarter of the century. The eminent psychologist of 1990s, William Kahn coined the phrase in one of his studies. The term gained immediate popularity as employers used it to cover the shift in culture they had been observing in the workplace.

Does the timing of the coinage of the phrase imply that pre-1990s the workers were employed in conditions that propagated engagement? Not necessarily. It can however advise the leaders of today to understand how to increase employee engagement in the present time.

Face to Face Interaction is Key

Telecommuting was on the rise in early 2010, yet employers such as IBM and Yahoo have discontinued their programs. This happened because remote work doesn’t facilitate cultural cohesion. Some of the most prominent eureka moments happen during coffee breaks and in the lunchroom. Solving problems and working as one singular team requires face time.

In-person time is not only critical for clarity in communication, it also allows bonding amongst the team. So, while millennials might trade a sum of their pay for flexible hours, face-to-face interaction is important for the company to operate as a team.

Traditional Benefits to Engage Employees

Other than their monthly paychecks, what do the employees in your company demand? Traditional incentives such as gym memberships or snacks in office are loved by employees. Benefits that are taken for granted are greatly enjoyed and appreciated by employees.

However, gimmicks and goodies cannot take the place of work experience that satiates the core needs of the employees. Though incentives are a lucrative option, any organization should first build the basic necessities of employment such as health insurance and retirement programs.

Training Should Be More Focused Upon

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”, as told by Benjamin Franklin in his famous book The Way to Wealth, remains a sound advice. In Franklin’s time and in the job sector of today, if the employers choose to invest in employee training, they can recover the cost with greater employee engagement and loyalty.

Many surveys have been conducted to back up this particular claim. Go2HR, a Canadian firm, in their study found that four out of ten employees leave their job within a year, if they believe they are receiving inadequate training.

Trust Building as an Important Exercise

In the dynamic of employee engagement, building trust is the most difficult yet the most essential activity. 80% of employees who are highly engaged with their organization trust their leaders (according to the report by Towers Watson). Trust is the workplace currency, it can only work when it is given and received. Then, how do you boost the trust of your employees in the organization?

A few pointers that are to be kept in mind include- showing kindness, fulfilling promises, enunciating expectations, and making an effort to apologize when wrong. A bond of trust between an employee and employer is not that different from other relationships.

The Bottom Line

There is no magic wand that can be waved to engage employees with the organization. However, a blueprint or effective plan can be detailed to engage employees with the company. Employee Engagement cannot be created out of thin air in the workplace, just like it cannot be created overnight in any other social setting. Mundane tricks like spending time with employees, brainstorming retirement plans and training novices may not seem as a great way to engage employees, but the demands of the employees reign supreme and must be answered to.

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