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Maximizing Productivity by Fostering A Culture of Engagement

This is part of a special advertising section on the Outlook for 2012.

Sunday, October 2, 2011
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A challenging economy demands that companies run lean and maximize workforce productivity. Managers and employees must "do more with less." Leaders who can build an engaged workforce will prevail.

Excited and enthusiastic about their jobs, engaged employees:

* Resist distractions and exceed their targets;

* Find ways to improve circumstances and volunteer for difficult assignments;

* Encourage others to perform better, are proud of their organizations and are most likely to stay with the company.

Companies that understand their engagement levels have higher retention rates, superior customer service and healthier bottom lines. Successful leaders strive to create an environment that yields a highly engaged workforce across the organizational, managerial and employee levels.

Organizational Engagement

An organization is a direct reflection of its leadership. Improving engagement across the organization is both strategic and tactical. You need to identify opportunities, simplify solutions, take action and hold people accountable.

Your company's culture reflects its core values, ethics and rules that guide behavior. Examine your vision, values and strategy to ensure alignment between your current reality and desired destination. Communicating a clear vision of the future is crucial.

Commit to developing your people. Results are achieved by employees working individually, in teams and across functions. Talent will be your competitive advantage for the future. Are your employees appreciating or depreciating in value?

Most employees want to develop skills for future jobs. Place your employees in the right jobs by using predictive performance or job-matching technology.

Managerial Engagement

Senior leaders, managers and supervisors drive engagement, which is part of every leader's job profile and leadership skill set. Successful companies have the right people in the right leadership positions, and invest in their development.

By assessing each of your leaders and identifying top- and lesser-performing employees, a proven predictive performance pattern can be developed, which facilitates identifying the best person for a position. Determine whether your leaders are in the right jobs by comparing their results to the appropriate predictive benchmarks.

To increase leadership effectiveness, identify the leadership skills that are most commonly used when engaging employees. Seek feedback from the leader's peers and direct reports. Align a leader's behaviors and skills to the expectations of the organization and his or her boss. Then close leadership gaps through on-the-job performance, feedback and coaching.

Equip your managers with data regarding their employees' basic behavioral tendencies concerning productivity, quality of work, initiative, teamwork and problem solving. Provide your managers with information to help them understand how to deal with their employees and their tolerance levels for stress, frustration and conflict.

Help your managers learn to motivate. Is an employee's source of motivation internal or external? Use assessments to evaluate existing employees and obtain information that will significantly increase managerial effectiveness. When employees see their manager working to learn more about them, satisfaction with the manager and engagement will increase.

Employee Engagement

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Until recently, a talent shortage of unparalleled proportions loomed. But a struggling economy has forced baby boomers to delay retirement while companies are challenged to remain productive with fewer workers. Organizations must rethink talent strategies to attract, engage and retain workers of all ages and be flexible to adapt to market changes.

While there is no "right" way to increase engagement, satisfaction with employment can be directly linked to job fit. Therefore, place your employees in positions where they can thrive and grow, which will result in greater productivity.

Successful companies identify and segment their target customers and use those same techniques to identify target employees. Target employees have a good job fit, are fully engaged, perform above expectations and elevate the performance of others.

Identify target employees by assessing all of your employees in the same way that you assess your leaders. Appropriate assessments will highlight not only employees' cognitive skills, job-related behaviors and occupational interests, but will also identify current and potential target employees.

Challenging your employees -- providing them with stretch goals, avoiding micromanaging and letting them learn from their mistakes -- will increase engagement. Engaged employees need to be continuously stimulated; each new experience for them is an opportunity for growth.

Employee engagement increases when employees receive regular training, especially training focused on "soft" rather than technical skills. Ironically, when you provide employees with more qualifications for their résumés, they are more inclined to stay with your company.

When challenging, training and coaching employees, allow time to get their feedback, which can be extremely important in implementing solutions.

Levels of engagement are directly related to employee job fit, which contributes most to your employees' -- and your organization's -- success.

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