BY CAROLINA ALBAN-STOUGHTON
With the unemployment rate edging down to 3.9% in July this year, and a workforce that has more options when it comes to choosing a place to apply their bucket of skills, employers are asking themselves what is it that they can offer to retain good talent.
According to a recent study by IBM and Globoforce(1) called “The Employee Experience Index. A new global measure of a human workplace and its impact”, “employee experience and engagement go hand in hand to reflect employees’ states at work. For example, when employees are positive about their experience at work and high in engagement, they are passionate about what they are doing; when employees are negative about their experience and low in engagement, they appear apathetic.” The study also identifies “key organizational practices that drive more positive employee experiences: organizational trust; coworker relationships; meaningful work; recognition, feedback and growth; empowerment and voice; and work-life balance.” Furthermore, the study suggests that a positive employee experience together with social recognition, work performance and retention in general can impact a company’s bottom line.
Chamber member Jani Jackson has been working with employers and employees for more than three years. Through her company, Develop Your Team, she has helped increase employee engagement and productivity in many companies. “Employees want to work in a psychologically safe environment – where they can trust that they can speak up about ideas, concerns, or mistakes, without fear of negative repercussions. They want to be able to trust the environment and the people they work with”, said Jackson, who adds that some employers mistakenly think throwing in more money to an employee is the solution to keep them happy, when “money is only a motivator up to a point. Employees want connection, both to the mission of the organization and to the people they work with.”
The same thing applies to perks, which according to Jackson’s research on the subject, are also attached to money in some way and once the needs of the employee are met, perks are no longer added value to the employee’s overall work experience.
This is where Jackson’s approach to a positive employee experience through team building kicks in. “Team building helps employees build relationships, solve problems, and work together to accomplish an objective. Depending on the needs of the group, team building activities may focus on: trust, communication, collaboration, decision-making, innovation, inclusion/diversity, problem-solving, and more.” Most importantly, team building helps employees make strong connections with each other. “Interpersonal relationships, friendships with co-workers – having a ‘best friend at work’ is a key to employee engagement, based on the Gallup Q12 study.” (2)
There are several options to choose from when picking the right team building exercise for a company. “The most popular experiences are those where employees accomplish a difficult challenge together – often they are surprised by what they can achieve!” The outdoors provide a great setting for team exercises. With Carlsbad year-round pleasant weather and plenty of outdoor places to choose – from beaches to parks to even a lagoon – business owners can get their employees outside of the office to connect, learn from each other and collaborate on a project.
Feeling the benefits
The IBM and Globoforce study concluded that “more positive employee experiences are linked to better performance, extra effort at work, and lower turnover intentions.” Laura Henderson, Human Resources Consultant with North County HR has seen this first hand. “I worked with a manufacturing company of about 55 employees and multiple facilities. The company was dealing with cash problems and it was evident to employees. (Apparently you only need to run out of toilet paper ONE time for the employees to remember it.) Supplies and manufacturing materials were in short supply. Vendors were constantly calling for payment. During my first exit interview the employee told me: turn around and go back to wherever you came from, you’re not going to like it here.”
Henderson immediately intervened to help build trust and repair relationships among the team by, among other things, developing better managers, improving communication and feedback and holding people accountable. “Specifically, we interviewed every single employee to hear their feedback; started a company newsletter with articles from different department managers on current events; scheduled more regular management meetings, more regular department meetings, and at least quarterly all hands meetings; involved employees in the design and planning of processes to be efficient and minimize errors, etc.” Henderson said the results were visible. “The company was able to improve morale of its employees, improve the communication between departments, reduce turnover, increase productivity and most importantly increase revenue with the same number of employees.”
It is then no surprise that companies that are usually considered “best places to work” are the ones that demonstrate positive employee experience and maintain high employee engagement. According to Jackson, these companies have been able to address what employees in the 21st century really want from a workplace. Here’s her list:
An organization that cares about employees as people first, workers second.
Trust is critical. Employees need to be able to trust that they can express themselves without fear of negative repercussions. They also need to feel trusted by their organization.
Clear vision and purpose.
Transparency about how each employee’s role contributes to achievement of organizational goals.
Strong interpersonal relationships.
Resources and opportunities for development that position employees to succeed.
Fun – spontaneous or planned.
According to Jackson, once these employee’s needs are met, a company should be able to experience lower turnover and absenteeism, improved customer loyalty and satisfaction and fewer resources expended on resolving human resources issues. Adding that, as in every workplace, problems are always expected to arise, but when there’s a positive employee experience, those same problems are identified earlier, quicker and problem-resolution becomes more effective. All these can contribute not only to an increase in a company’s revenue, but also to a competitive advantage in the current low unemployment context.