Imagine your workplace where employees are passionate about coming to work and feel energized by what they do. They go beyond expectations to provide quality service. They persevere in times of challenges and adapt to change quickly. They take initiatives in recommending areas for improvement. They extend themselves to help others. Isn’t this the ideal state your organization hopes to reach? However, the reality is far from this rosy picture. Gallup’s 2017 research on the state of the American workforce revealed some concerning statistics:

  • 33% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs
  • 51% of employees are not engaged at work—they are just there
  • 16% of employees are actively disengaged at work.

Further, when it comes to engaging the Millennial workforce, the challenge is even bigger. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Millennial Survey, Millennials stay in their job for less than three years. These numbers are concerning because it means that employers can count on only a small number of employees to make meaningful contributions. It also means that employers have to divert their energy to manage average or low performers (which many distribution companies do). Financially, disengagement has cost companies in the United States an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion a year due to poor performance.

So here are some questions for you to consider as a leader or manager: How would you rate the engagement level of individuals within your company/division/team? What is the financial consequence of having less engaged employees? Do you know what strengths each of your employees brings to his/her job? Have you ever talked to your employees about what they desire to learn more about their job? What have you done to encourage employees to share their expertise and experiences within your organization? What can you do to open up other career possibilities for your employees? Reflecting on these questions is necessary because they focus directly on the level of employee engagement, a struggle shared by many distributors.

Engaged employees experience deeper emotional satisfaction and are fully committed to their organization with no intent to leave. When this level is reached, both the organization and the individual benefit. So how do you engage employees? Here  are some suggestions my coauthors and I provide in NAW’s book, Optimizing Human Capital Development.

  1. Recruit retainable employees. This is the first step to curtail turnover. Making the right hiring decisions requires collaboration among multiple parties—senior executives, HR personnel, functional managers, and top performers—to “collectively” identify the background, knowledge, skills and personal characteristics your retainable employees should share.
  2. Design meaningful work. People desire to make a difference in this world. Research shows that a well-designed job is one of the biggest motivators for employees; so make work interesting, challenging and impactful.
  3. Identify career paths. Plan for careers, not just jobs, because employees want to have a clear, forward-looking path to greater responsibility and rewards. When you outline a clear path to advancement, employees feel valued.
  4. Provide ongoing education. More than ever before, employees long for learning opportunities to stay relevant and competitive in today’s changing job market. Take advantage of various social media platforms to provide the right real-time, all-the-time training and development programs for your employees.
  5. Create open communication. Keeping the line of communication between employees and management active and transparent will foster a sense of community and trust building. Make an effort to seek employees’ input, understand their career aspirations and accommodate their developmental needs.
  6. Provide constructive feedback. Employees need feedback to grow on the job, so let them know, in a timely, meaningful and development-oriented manner, how they are doing in their positions. This will help employees feel cared about.
  7. Offer various rewards. Employees tend to engage more when they feel that their contributions are recognized and rewarded; providing attractive rewards will keep employees happy and engaged. Remember: money is not the only incentive for employees to do a good job; intangibles such as verbal recognition, respect and growth opportunities also matter.
  8. Make engagement personal. Each employee is motivated by different things, so engagement strategies should be customized to meet individual needs. You can make engagement “personal” by asking each employee a simple question: What motivates you?

In the fast-changing workplace today, employee engagement is no longer an option but a key business strategy to enhance your company’s attraction to current and future employees. If you haven’t done so, now is time to get serious about your engagement effort: be proactive and intentional in engaging your employees; do not wait until retention becomes a serious issue.

You may also want to read What Is Your Employee Value Proposition?