Employee Engagement, Creativity Can Drive Retention

By Bill Leonard Sep 9, 2008
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Employers that engage workers actively and encourage them to be creative will attract top-notch candidates and retain loyal employees, which can be a competitive advantage, recent research shows.

“Business leaders are now recognizing the role employee engagement and loyalty plays in the financial health of a company,” said Stacey Randall, workplace futurist for IMR Research Group Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., which conducted the study. “Employee engagement directly affects profitability, and you are wasting resources—both human and financial—unless you are focusing on the policies and practices that are going to give you the most bang for your buck.”

IMR researchers surveyed nearly 2,000 workers throughout the United States and found that the key drivers of employee loyalty include employee empowerment for decisions, trust between management and employees, opportunities for professional development and active encouragement of creativity.

Randall says that the IMR researchers defined these attributes as key drivers of loyalty because other research has shown them to be factors in worker retention and because respondents to the IMR survey ranked them as highly important. Trust between employees and management might be the most important of the listed factors, the IMR research concluded.

“Our research has consistently shown trust to be of critical importance to today’s workers, and this actually relates to other key drivers, including those dealing with empowerment and having influence on goals and strategy,” Randall said.

While trust and engagement ranked high in driving loyalty, many of what Randall calls “unarticulated motivators” related to creativity and innovation.

“The future of the American company rests on our ability to innovate, and workers understand how brainstorming and other creative thinking sessions can contribute to the company’s bottom line as well as make employees feel their input is valued,” Randall said. “This study indicates that these attributes are not standouts in employees’ minds, but efforts to improve in these areas can lead to great results.”

The results of the IMR study aligns with other research conducted on employee engagement and retention. Trust in immediate supervisors and senior management are crucial to keeping workers engaged and loyal to an organization, research from the Kenexa Research Institute also revealed. The Kenexa Research Institute collects data routinely on employee engagement and retention. The Institute’s latest report on employee engagement was released in April 2008.

Researchers for the Kenexa Institute have found consistently that employers that engender an atmosphere of trust are more likely to have employees who have a sense of job security, are satisfied with on-the-job training and feel that work performance is evaluated fairly.

“People have a fundamental need to know how they are doing and what the future holds for them. It’s simply part of who we are,” said Jack Wiley, executive director, Kenexa Research Institute. “Organizations that understand this and have the process in place to make it happen have an advantage over their competitors. Not only are they going to outperform their competitors, but they are building a more engaged and committed workforce.”

Research from The Conference Board also has revealed that employees who say they are engaged and committed to their jobs plan to stay with their employer into 2009 and have no plans to begin a job search. Conference Board researchers found that the two most common factors influencing job satisfaction were opportunities to use talents and creativity and programs for career development and training.

Bill Leonard is senior writer for SHRM Online.

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