Saturday, May 21, 2022

BY AMY COOLEY

We may tire of hearing it, but ... It’s a different world than it was two years—or even six months—ago.

If you took a snapshot of your business from December 2019 and compared it to your operation today, you could play that kids’ game where you spot all the differences between two pictures.

HR Coach Two years ago, you may have had a full house with a core of longer-term office, fleet care, and chauffeur staff. By spring of 2020, many of you had reduced your team to a small handful or even gone solo. And now with the near-complete return of travel and commerce, you’re working to rebuild your teams. With the US unemployment rate back down to 3.9 percent according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (December 2021), both recruitment and retention require a lot of energy and deliberate effort. So how do you do it? What makes talented candidates want to join your team? What makes great employees want to stay? More and more, workers on not looking for “a job”: they are looking for “the right place to work.” Employee engagement is a big part of the answer.

Share the mission. Do you have a mission statement? Does your team share your vision? More and more surveys show that employees are looking for meaningful work. That means your mission should be more than a sentence or two in your handbook. Communicate your mission and why you believe in it. Share your passion for what you do and why you do it. Ask employees to think about, and even share, what that mission means to THEM. Try giving them a chance to put the mission in their own words, and think about how their particular role relates to the company’s overall purpose. When presenting a new project or a process change, explain how it furthers the company’s mission.

Is it time to revamp your mission statement in light of the experiences of the last two years? Involve your team in some brainstorming. Engaging your employees will not only produce diverse perspectives and provide surprising insights, it will also help your staff internalize and adopt your vision.

Share your questions. Employee surveys are a great tool in your engagement plan. The best way to find out what’s working and what’s not, what people care about, and ultimately, how engaged they are (or aren’t) is to ask. Employee surveys are most candid, and therefore most meaningful, when they are anonymous. This isn’t an underhanded way to find out what Kristen or Joey or Sarah or Sam thinks; it’s a way to find out how your company measures up as an employer overall. Do your employees, as a whole, have the resources they need? Are they happy working on your team? Do all the members of your team feel valued? Do these survey responses reflect the culture you intended to create? Ask the questions, and keep your mind open to the responses.

Share experiences. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk and get to know each other. If the only time you reach out to your team is when you need to make a change, provide feedback, or post a company memo, that’s minimal engagement. Spend time together (virtually, if need be). Shared experiences build relationships. And relationships help workers feel connected to the team.

This can be a challenge in our 24/7 industry, but there are both high-tech and low-tech tools you can utilize to foster connections. For example, our team at The LMC Groups uses a private social media group where we share wins, participate in wellness challenges, give shout-outs, and sometimes just get silly. Since we are not always working in the same space together, our SM group acts like a virtual whiteboard, and even a virtual watercooler. Many communication channels include both web and mobile apps, so your team can participate in instant messaging, for example, no matter where they are. And even if you weren’t doing much in the way of video conferencing two years ago, almost everyone is familiar with Zoom by now.

Try posting a question of the week, a riddle, or a puzzle: something that people can respond to all week. Why not try a wellness challenge, or a friendly competition? Anything that creates a shared positive experience, from the classic pizza party to a virtual book club, could be a relationship-builder for you and your team. So, use your imagination, and have some fun!

Share the load. Today’s workers want to feel part of a team, and to know they are contributing in a meaningful way. Great workers want to learn and grow, take on challenges, and be part of solutions. One of the top things prospective employees look for in a new company or new job is development potential—will they be able to grow at this company, or how will this job help them with their career goals.

If you know your employees, and if YOU are engaged, you will begin to recognize what people are good at and what they are interested in. Let these insights guide you in offering training and learning opportunities. Developing your employees is an important part of your growth strategy —and your succession planning. It’s an opportunity to share the load. Managers, this can take a little getting used to, but your best employees WANT you to delegate. When you develop and delegate, your whole team gets better, and your business grows.

Share the love. Workers want to be recognized for their good work and valued for their contributions. From regular feedback to rewards and recognition, employees want to be valued uniquely. No one wants to feel like a cog in a machine.

Rewards and recognition work best when they are desirable and appropriate. If rewards seem out of scale (too big or too small) for the accomplishment, or if they are not desirable to employees, they will rapidly lose their impact.

Most of all, recognition must be sincere and personal. Rewards and recognition are most successful when they reflect a positive corporate culture. Impersonal rewards can be alienating, especially to millennials and younger workers, but for any generation they can be far less meaningful than a sincere and personal recognition.

Recognition doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, and rewards don’t have to be expensive—save those for the major achievements. Just don’t overlook opportunities to show sincere appreciation using specific details: “Thank you, Derek, for the great work you did with the GE Board Meeting logistics last week. Your solution to the shortage of executive Sprinters was brilliant. You exemplified our mission to provide top-tier VIP ground transportation that exceeds expectations every time.”

Lack of engagement is a primary predictor of employee attrition. In other words, employees are less likely to leave when they feel connected to the company’s mission, when they like their teammates, when they respect their leaders, when they feel empowered and challenged, and when they feel valued.

As the song (approximately) says, “If you like it, then you’d better put a ring on it”—get engaged!   [CD0122]
Amy Cooley is HR Administrator for The LMC Groups. She can be reached at amy@lmcpeople.com.