Organizations spend billions of dollars every year on initiatives aimed at boosting employee engagement. Yet the rate of employee engagement globally remains a low 13 percent. Compounding this challenge is the fact that the acceleration of organizational change leaves more and more workers struggling to keep up.
In The Workplace Engagement Solution: Find a Common Mission, Vision and Purpose with All of Today's Employees (Career Press, 2017), author David Harder, founder and president of Inspired Work Inc., a career and organization development firm based in Pacific Palisades, Calif., examines the root of engagement. He maintains that raising engagement relies on teaching individuals the skills they need to navigate change.
Sustainable engagement also requires the full commitment of a CEO or business owner, he writes: "The disengagement problem usually begins with the CEO telling human resources to fix it. But unless the CEO or business owner takes charge of engagement, it's a useless battle."
Harder describes "Engagement CEOs" as those who:
- Take charge of the culture personally.
- Develop a strong leadership brand as evidenced in their consistent behavior and messaging.
- Lead by example and lean toward democracy over elitism in any form.
- Express continuous, genuine and worthy praise to employees.
- Constantly seek ways to keep their talent current and relevant.
- Treat employees as the organization's greatest asset versus a potential liability.
- View engagement as a profit source rather than an expense.
- Effectively educate all stakeholders on the need for effective people strategies.
- Move the vision from short-term financial performance to long-term value, brand strength and reputation.
- Tell themselves and others the truth, especially about change.
- Keep themselves directly connected to the front line.
- Are transparent and expect transparency throughout the organization.
- Show respect toward all employees and learn from all of them.
These are behaviors HR leaders should demonstrate, too, Harder says. HR leaders must also assume the role of spreading accountability throughout the organization by providing leadership development for every employee, not just people at the top. "Identify the characteristics you want your employees to develop," he writes. "When you see them happening, celebrate!"
Harder also recommends that organizations adopt mentoring programs to support individual contributors in their career journeys and to advance the business.
"Building a mentor-driven, high-standard, radically compassionate, connected, and open culture will also lead to less house-cleaning and more exciting opportunities," he writes.
Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.