Engagement Driver #4-  Development Opportunities

Engagement Driver #4- Development Opportunities

Our prior article “What Drives Engagement?” listed the top 10 engagement drivers.

Three areas impact employee perceptions of available development and career opportunities (category 4):

1. Enjoy challenging work assignments that broaden skills

2. Improved my skills and capabilities over the last year

3. Have excellent career advancement opportunities

Many people are comfortable and happy in their current job and do not wish to take on additional responsibilities.

Others crave challenging work and the opportunity to learn and grow. A key component in keeping the second group of employees at your organization is to figure out how to meet these needs.

If you are small business, you usually do not have a “career paths” or a training department. However, you have many informal opportunities for additional development—these include cross-training, job enrichment, project assignments, and team lead opportunities.

It is always best to have a “back up” for each role– and developing someone as a  backup cross-trains another team member and gives a sense of skill development. Job “enrichment” means learning a bit deeper or broader on current tasks, such as increasing knowledge of accounting principles or equipment repair. We can always learn more about the work we do.

Even if your organization does not have “layers of management,” some employees are interesting in a newly emerging role of team leader. Team leaders are the “go-to” people who peers ask for help or to get another opinion for a decision. They often assist managers with routine supervisory tasks such as scheduling, assigning specific work, compiling reports, and side by side skill training. You may have someone now that is informally in this role.

Three steps you can take NOW to improve employee perceptions of development opportunities

  1. Think of one project or ongoing task that would be a stretch assignment for a team member, and delegate to someone with the competencies to accomplish.
  2. Spend 30 minutes one morning each week meeting with a team member to discuss “What skills or knowledge do you want to develop in the next year? How can this be accomplished?” Then create a timeline and action plan to achieve.
  3. Identify and start developing a team leader: If you have a great performer with interpersonal skills and a desire for additional responsibility, start with delegating a routine team task (scheduling, weekly project report, train new employee). If this person continues to grow in this role, create a team leader position with specific responsibilities and coach to achieve.

Two articles for more reading

For a source of stretch assignments, read our People plan article: “Too busy to delegate

Inc Magazine article How to Tell If Your Employees Are Bored

Image courtesy of basketman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Drives Engagement?

What Drives Engagement?

Top ten global engagement drivers

You have at least met (if not work with) someone who is NOT engaged– they show up and barely do the job.

What can be a delight for co-workers and managers is someone who is “actively engaged.” Engagement is when an employee expends discretionary extra effort in their job— studies show that about 20% of US workers fit this category but some organizations have more than 40% engaged workers.

What influences an employee to go “Above and beyond?”

I have grouped them into four categories and will discuss suggestions for improving these (see number 1 below) with future articles.

1. How the organization treats people

  • Senior management sincerely interested in employee well-being
  • Organization’s reputation for social responsibility
  • Organization quickly resolves customer concerns

2. What is valued at the organization?

  • Set high personal standards
  • Organization encourages innovative thinking

3. Employee role/ relationship

  • Good relationship with supervisor
  • Employees feel they have input into decision-making in their department

4. Development and career opportunities

  • Enjoy challenging work assignments that broaden skills
  • Improved my skills and capabilities over the last year
  • Have excellent career advancement opportunities

(Source : Towers Watson study of the global workforce, Closing the Engagement Gap)

Many managers may be surprised that social responsibility and how customers are treated impacts employee performance. But employees are always considering not just how they are treated, but also how others are treated, and want to take pride in their employer and the organization’s decisions and direction. (For example, I have a colleague who begrudgingly took a job at a local company that is under investigation by the DEC for polluting the neighborhood, and she is not exactly “proud” to promote her new position.)

Three steps you can take NOW to improve employee perceptions of how people are treated:

  1. Spend 10 minutes once a week going around to exchange “small talk” with employees, finding out more about their lives outside the office and what is important to them (bonus points if you know names of kids, grandkids, and pets as well as favorite hobbies)
  2. Ask your key team members to suggest one way the organization can improve social or environmental responsibility, and then implement this idea
  3. Decide one way customers requests can be fulfilled more quickly or conveniently.

Thanks to Terry Williams of the Brain Based Boss for alerting me to this interesting research.

Total Rewards #7- the Employer

Total Rewards #7- the Employer

Where do you work?” is a question often posed when we first meet someone, directly after they learn your name and occupation. You might not think about this but we do judge someone by the “company they keep”- literally.

Are you proud to be associated with your employer? Does their reputation and values align with yours? 

When someone works for a prestigious organization (say Wegmans, our local best place to work) they have a sense of pride with this affiliation (and we are impressed or perhaps envious).

A friend of mine recently took a job at a company that had been censored by the Environmental Protection Agency for flagrant polluting of the neighborhood—he was not particularly excited about working for this company (“it’s a job”) and did not broadcast the news to all his friends.

I had a similar experience in college working for a national exercise chain – it was clear to me after a short time that they used what I felt were predatory sales practices. While I kept my cushy front desk job for the remainder of the semester, I did not continue to encourage prospects to schedule a tour (prior to this I was the most successful appointment maker on staff). So you see, my values were not in alignment with theirs, I was not willing to compromise them and I lost engagement and my performance plummeted.

One factor related to employer reputation is that most of us would prefer a stable job (until at least we decide to leave). The Aon Hewitt Total Rewards survey found that perceptions of job security, as well as agreement with organization decisions and direction (that will ultimately impact our job security if the organization is not successful) were all key factors in employee engagement. Engagement has been found dramatically lower at organizations that are failing or laying off workers. How can you expect employees to go that “extra mile” if they expect to out of work soon?

Another factor related to our employer brand is our need for pride and affiliation. Our career choices reflect on us and we have a natural desire to affiliate with those who are similar to us. Research suggests that an employer’s reputation is becoming more important to recruiting, turnover and employee engagement.

Employers are also starting to leverage their reputation for socially and economically conscious choices, such as “green” statements and touting philanthropy.

Forbes has an interesting article about social responsibility for employee attraction, and references a study that found:

  • 53 percent of workers said that “a job where I can make an impact” was important to their happiness
  • 72 percent of students about to enter the workforce agreed (wanted to “make an impact”)
  • most would even take a pay cut to achieve that goal

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net