Want to Build Engagement? Provide Latest Technology, Access to Leaders

By Kathy Gurchiek Oct 11, 2016
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​Access to company leaders and up-to-date technology rank high in driving employee engagement and success within an organization, according to new global research.

People aren't working at an organization just for the paycheck, said Gretchen Alarcon, group vice president of HCM product strategy at Oracle, which conducted the research. Employees want to identify with the company's culture and want to believe that they are supported in their professional goals.

Action Items

Researchers found that contact with direct supervisors and other leaders, as well as conversations about job performance, helps create a satisfying workplace culture that encourages high performance levels. Their report, From Theory to Action: A Practical Look at What Really Drives Employee Engagement, features survey findings and interviews conducted for Oracle in April and May with 4,707 full-time employees at organizations with 250 or more people. Respondents were from 20 countries. 

Engagement isn't just about employees having a good feeling" about their job or organization, Alarcon said. "It's about driving productivity and increasing retention." 

The report identified key actions leaders can take to improve employee engagement:

Be actively involved in the work lives of employees by providing continual, open communication. Frequent feedback helps reinforce the organization's values and informs employees how their work adds value to the organization, according to the report.

This type of communication should begin on the day new hires start. However, only 41percent of respondents said their companies' onboarding practices set them up for growth and success.

HR can set the stage during onboarding and then see that managers provide employees with frequent feedback, Alarcon told SHRM Online. This includes letting employees know when they are doing a good job, providing clear direction so employees know what is expected of them, and offering constructive feedback on how they can improve their performance.

"As managers, it's taking the time to step away from the day-to-day business to really look at employees and say, 'I'm trying to help you grow your career' ... and honing in on those things that help employees feel more engaged,'" Alarcon said.

It may involve discussing a stretch assignment or new project that can further their development. If the organization's needs are changing, it may mean talking about a role change for the employee; in that case, leaders need to alter the way they define what constitutes good performance within that role and communicate that to the employee, the report noted. 

"Within the first 14 days [of employment], employees are already asking themselves, 'Do I think I can progress here? Do I have a manager who can be a mentor, and am I getting the ability to create a network and get introduced to the right people and tools to best perform in my job?' This is especially important when we think about development within a company," Alarcon said in a news release.

However, communication goes both ways. Employees have a responsibility to tell their managers what they need to progress and flourish in their jobs, the report pointed out.

Use technology to stay in touch with employees. Tools such as instant messaging, videoconferencing, and mobile collaboration apps can help leaders deliver information and make frequent contact with employees.

Employees are plugged into the latest technology and expect the same level of access as they have in their personal lives as consumers so they can be successful in their jobs, Alarcon noted. But only 44 percent of respondents said their organizations provide them with the latest technology, the survey found.

Employees want to feel that their organizations are investing in their success, including providing tools that aid in learning, developing their skills and collaborating, according to the findings.

"They don't want to rely on e-mail" as a collaboration tool, Alarcon pointed out.

Set an example with direct reports on how to communicate with those they supervise and recognize. Recognition can include recognizing someone's accomplishments during a meeting or awarding bonuses, salary adjustments or promotions, Alarcon said. "As a leader, you're expressing your values," she said. "When someone gets promoted ... it impacts the rest of the organization. [As a leader,] I'm conveying to the rest of my team that this person was prepared for leadership and aligned with [the organization's] values. You really want to think about what impact that [decision] has."

Be accessible to all employees to build trust and engagement. Only 47 percent of respondents thought their leaders were approachable and 44 percent expressed confidence in their leaders. Failing to be accessible and approachable can cause employees to feel disconnected from the organization and that their voices are not heard. 

Being visible is not a matter of simply doing a walk-around to employee work areas. Think about multiple ways to communicate with employees and make it easy for them to ask questions, Alarcon said. Try holding town hall meetings, attending informal work gatherings, and being cognizant of employees who work night shifts or in different time zones. 

Building trust requires leaders to communicate with employees in good times and in bad, she said.

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