In today’s job economy, unemployment is low, competition is high, and turnover is expensive. Many employers struggle to keep their employees from leaving for greener pastures. They’re asking the same questions: Why do our people go? And why do they stay?
It’s frustrating when the only answer seems to be increasing employee compensation. While compensation is undoubtedly important, if we focus strictly on salaries, we miss one of the most important drivers of employee loyalty: engagement.
Engaged employees are easy to recognize. They’re the ones who are energized with confidence and positivity. They don’t just get the job done, they go above and beyond. So how do you master this elusive employee engagement?
Clear career paths
Employees are motivated by a variety of factors, but our research shows that not having a clear career path is one of the major culture drivers for why your workforce may be unhappy.
How many times have the managers and leaders at your company expressed disappointment that an up-and-coming employee is leaving because you had “big plans” for them? Did the employee know about those big plans? Employees who don’t have a sense that they can grow at an organization are likely to leave.
When you provide a well-defined career path, employees not only understand the possibilities on their horizon, but they also know they’re more likely to have access to professional training and development for their next role.
Most managers believe that their team knows what they should be working on and why it’s important. However, there is often a gap between what the manager thinks and reality. A lack of consistently communicated expectations causes that gap.
The most effective way to bridge this gap is for managers to tie performance expectations to the company’s strategic plan. Most organizations have a strategic plan, but too often that plan is known only to members of the leadership team. As a result, employees have a hard time connecting their performance to the company’s long-term success.
Share your strategic plan with your entire team and use it to map employee’s performance expectations. When someone on the team questions what their priorities are, and whether something they’re working on matters to the overall picture, they can look to the strategic plan to identify whether it’s a priority.
Trust in leadership
If your employees do not believe in the leaders of your organization, they will never become fully engaged. But trust doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes intentional effort on the part of leadership.
The most effective way to build trust to tell and then act on the truth. Even when it’s difficult, tell the truth, not just what you think people want to hear. It’s a delicate balance, but you can be considerate of your team’s effort and sensitive to their feelings while giving people the information they need to know. Remember, your employees are smart, motivated professionals. They want to be treated with respect, not like children who do not understand what is going on in the business.
But talk is hollow if not followed by action. Don’t make a promise unless you are able to follow through. Consistently doing what you say you’ll do builds trust over time but breaking a commitment can destroy that trust in an instant.
Communication is key to employee engagement
As you reflect back on the three ideas outlined above, you may notice the common thread is communication. The idea that better communication is the answer to your organization’s engagement and employee retention woes is not new. In fact, you may have been working on improving communication for years and wondering whether it will ever be good enough. The truth is, communication will be an ongoing effort as long as you are growing your organization and building relationships. There’s no end in sight. But your efforts will be rewarded.
You can keep your star performers energized and productive. Clear career paths, established expectations and a commitment to earning employees’ trust will lay the foundation for a new team culture of engagement and loyalty.