As employers begin to look at ways to recruit, retain, and generally make the employee experience more positive, a resounding theme of engagement is present. Engagement isn’t something a company can write into the budget, however. It is something that needs to be developed, worked at, and reviewed often.
Kristie Haase, Employee Engagement Survey Director at MRA, has had several conversations with member organizations about what works— and what does not work—to engage employees and keep them engaged. She shared some key points on engagement that have helped transition companies into employers of choice.
Q: Is engagement the most important aspect of retention?
A: Engagement is one aspect of retention, but not the only one. It is true that employees who are fully engaged are less likely to leave and tend to be more satisfied, but it is not the only aspect of retention.
The number of employment alternatives for talent is high right now. When employment alternatives were low, like in 2020 and 2021, there was less choice. Now, employers also need to be mindful of the economic market and how it influences employee migration. The employee market is hot and employees perceive they can leave and get a job anywhere. In some cases, it makes them ask why they should stay.
Ask yourself why employees want to stay with your company. What are you doing to make them choose you over other options? But asking the question is not enough. Be intentional with genuine interest for wanting the information and be prepared to take action. If you ask the question, really listen to the response. Pay attention to the message employees are sending and notice where gaps exist between current practices and what is desired.
Q: What are some methods used to collect feedback on employee satisfaction?
A: One way is to conduct employee satisfaction surveys, which provide information and feedback from all levels of the organization. These allow you to gather a larger number of responses and provide a bigger picture. By using 360 assessments, you can gather information on your leaders and the results can help them understand how they are viewed by peers.
Q: Once the feedback is obtained, then what?
A: Once you have asked the questions and listened to the answers, determine what you will do about it. We’ve seen it in the past— companies receive feedback and don’t do anything with it. Each time the questions are asked, the responses are the same. When reasons recur, they become a theme or trend. Not addressing them sends employees the message that the company doesn’t care.
Addressing the issues needs to be a group endeavor, though, and include more than just the HR team. HR could be considered the project manager of the effort—facilitating the conversations and gathering the data. The key players are the managers because they are on the front line with employees. They have the responsibility of fixing any identified problems.
Q: If the feedback points to management, what can be done to improve those relationships?
A: Again, 360 feedback can be a great tool, or peer reviews. In cases Where the feedback is received from direct reports, it can be useful to call on respected members of upper management as mentors. If inside coaching is not a suitable option, MRA offers Organization Development services, which can provide an outside perspective.
Q: How can you tell if employees consider you an employer of choice?
A: Each organization is unique and needs to look at employee metrics. The following methods can be used to measure where you stand:
- Ask for feedback. Engagement surveys are great tools, but you should also work to promote an environment of open communication throughout your organization.
- Use employee feedback when developing your employee value proposition to provide a true statement of why recruits should want to work for you.
- Review your website. The messaging should be genuine and not appear promotional. Employee testimonials can be used to support the statements.
- Measure company values. Include these in core responsibilities of management and hold individuals accountable. These can also be used when conducting 360 or peer reviews and during stay interviews.
- Conduct periodic check-ins. Most companies conduct annual reviews, but also include them following the interview process, onboarding, and completion of the initial training to hear feedback on those processes.
Becoming an employer of choice depends on current employees. Word of mouth is powerful, so it is important to understand what your employees are saying about you. People research companies before applying, so make sure prospective candidates find what you want them to find.
Q: Will being an employer of choice help ensure employee engagement?
A: Employees who know the organization understand the mission, vision, and purpose of the company and how their job contributes to each. Engagement is dependent upon employees feeling valued for their contributions and that falls on the immediate manager. Feeling aligned with what they know about the company is what makes them choose to be part of it.
In the end, not all candidates or employees will feel aligned with the company’s message. It’s okay if someone doesn’t feel working for you is a good fit, but it is important that the decision can be made for legitimate reasons.
A strong, supportive leader can help reduce turnover and increase engagement by forming connections with employees. Allowing employees to provide honest feedback is the key to engagement and strong leaders earn respect by promoting environments of trust.