A recent article by Jennifer Robison in the latest Gallup Management Journal recognizes the consuming challenges facing corporate leaders these days, but reminds them of the need to stay focused on employee engagement. Gallup is in the employee engagement business, so the article is, of course, designed to prompt existing clients and prospects to pick up the phone and get some help. But I don't mind self-serving pieces like this when they ring true and have useful information and advice, and this one certainly does.
Here's a taste:
Gallup has a giant pile of data from years of surveying employees that shows a direct connection between high engagement and business success. Companies with engaged employees have more loyal customers, better productivity and higher profits than those who don't. And the flip side is also true. "bottom quartile" companies with highly disengaged employees "have 51% more inventory shrinkage, 31% to 51% more employee turnover, and 62% more accidents than business units in the top quartile."
So how do leaders get employees engaged, and keep them that way? Here's a summary of Gallop's advice:
- Remind everyone they're all in it together. This means communicating what's happening and why - and showing some empathy.
- Ask for employee input. People are more engaged when they know their employer cares about their opinion and responds to comments and suggestions.
- Create a focus. Having a common purpose brings a team together. This means getting out of "reaction mode" and communicating a long-term vision.
- Share the news -- good and bad -- with employees first. "No matter how bad the news is, people will always think of something worse unless they have accurate information from leadership."
- Don't abandon front line managers, your primary conduit to employees. "They need support like never before because they may be feeling as uncertain about the future as the employees they manage."
- Demonstrate optimism by paying attention to people. "A good way to prove your optimism is to double down on people and products....show your people today that you believe in the future of the company--and that you're ready to meet it when it arrives."
This stuff all sounds like common sense, and you've heard most of this before. But in a time of crisis, common sense can be one of the first casualties. The Gallup article is directed at business leaders, but it might as well be a manifesto for corporate communicators. Here's how it ends:
Preserving or augmenting engagement isn't easy. It takes commitment from the top. But the return on engagement almost always outweighs the investment. "Worldwide, the best companies realize they can't afford to ignore employee engagement," says [Tom Rath, Gallup global practice leader and coauthor with Conchie of Strengths Based Leadership.] "But then, the best companies never did."
Communicators, take heed. If you're not currently giving your senior leaders advice like this, get on it.
Common sense does not always prevail on its own. What are YOU going to do next?