“Businesses are suffering a staggeringly high quit rate,” according to Gallup, a well-known trend analysis firm. A recent study by Gallup showed that nearly half of working Americans are actively searching for jobs or at least “watching for opportunities.” Even if only a much smaller proportion of your employees are in that mode, you can’t afford to wait and see what happens. It’s time to get proactive.

First, what is at the root of this trend, which has been dubbed “the great resignation?” It’s not all about pay, says Gallup. Indeed, many employers have been raising wages and offering “stay bonuses,” yet the problem persists.

In some cases, offering higher wages backfires, triggering what Gallup calls the true root of the trend: employee discontentment. Depending on how it is handled, dramatic pay adjustments can cause existing employees to ask cynically, “If you could pay this much before, why didn’t you?” Or, when they see how far you go to attract new hires, they might ask, “Why are you offering new employees so much more than I got?”

More Than a Paycheck

The common wisdom is that, during the worst of the pandemic, many workers began reflecting more on what is important in life, including having a job that energizes them. When a job is just a paycheck, employee engagement is limited. But engagement is what makes employees enthusiastic, productive, and committed to their jobs — and to you.

How do you boost employee engagement? It takes more than flipping a switch. It takes time and a genuine commitment to support employees holistically, and to demonstrate to employees that you have made that commitment. As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains, “Whereas engaged employees feel focused with a sense of urgency and concentrate on how they approach what they do, satisfied employees, in contrast, feel pleasant, content, and gratified.” The latter can wear off easily, just when you need employees to do their utmost to support the business.

Drivers of Engagement

The employee engagement recipe book features many ingredients, but you might not be able to throw them all into the mix immediately. Even so, you need to start somewhere. Indeed, you may have some of those components already at work. Here is a list of key “drivers” of employee engagement at the organizational level offered by SHRM:

  • Employees are acknowledged to be the company’s most valuable resource, and invested in accordingly,
  • Leaders are trusted to make the right decisions for the company to maintain its success, and
  • Employees understand how they fit into the company’s future, with expectations of growth opportunities.

Typically, what is more important to employee engagement on a day-to-day basis is a set of more immediate concerns, including:

  • Their relationships with supervisors (“Studies show that people leave managers, not companies,” according to SHRM),
  • Availability of the resources to do the job expected of them, both equipment and training, and
  • Sufficient autonomy to make decisions that enable them to do their jobs well.

An underlying theme for maximizing employees’ engagement is sound communication, both formal and informal. Formal communication efforts include performance reviews, goal setting, training, and employee surveys.

When these steps are rushed or poorly conceived, naturally their value is limited at best. Take the time to do them well.

Surveys and Other Approaches

Some employers use specialized employee engagement surveys. But their accuracy and employees’ comfort level with answering them honestly could be affected by the size of your organization. The smaller the survey sample, the larger the margin of error.

Informal communication opportunities that help build employee engagement include mentoring, frequent performance feedback, conversations about career development, company social get-togethers, and award programs.

Here are some other approaches to increasing engagement:

  • Ask employees to describe their jobs and roles within the organization. The goal is to identify possible misconceptions by the staff member and you, with an eye toward empowering employees to assume as much responsibility and autonomy as possible.
  • Give employees the chance to learn about how other departments function and the responsibilities for workers in those departments.
  • Make it easy for employees to seek out other opportunities within the company.
  • Be on the lookout for ways to publicly recognize those who go above and beyond, while also encouraging employees and departments to crow about their achievements.
  • Open lines of communication between each employee and his or her supervisor’s supervisor, while taking care not to undermine the role of the immediate supervisor.
  • Create safe means for employees to confidentially call out toxic behavior on the part of co-workers and supervisors.
  • Promptly address any concerns about abusive behavior.
  • Pay as competitively as possible, but help employees understand the role they play in the company’s financial performance.
  • Link incentive pay to performance metrics they can influence.

The list can go on and on. The bottom line is to do the best you can to create a work environment that inspires trust, confidence, pride, and optimism for the future. Some turnover is inevitable, but when you maximize employee engagement, everybody wins and you are less apt to have a staffing crunch on your hands.

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Our firm provides the information in this article for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal or other competent advisors. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional advisor who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles in this blog are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.




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