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The Boomer Bulletin - 2012
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The Search for Sustainable Employee Engagement

Posted By Sandra Wiley, Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

As firm leaders throughout the country look for ways to increase employee engagement and motivation, they are frustrated when they hear reports that the only answer is increasing their employee’s compensation.  While compensation is certainly important, I believe if we focus strictly on compensation we will miss some of the most important drivers of engagement and motivation. 

Compensation is certainly a short term motivator, but ultimately, employees look for a firm and a position where their values are met, core skills are utilized and work tasks align with personal interests.  Compensation does help attract and retain employees but "sustainable engagement” requires much more than money. Sustainable engagement is a combination of:

  • Traditional engagement—employees’ willingness to expend discretionary effort. 
  • Enablement—the tools, resources and support employees need to do their jobs effectively. 
  • Energy—a work environment that supports employee well-being.

As discovered in a recent survey of top talent by the PCPS, the top retention factors for 2011 were:

  • Salary - 95%
  • Career Growth Opportunities - 93%
  • Paid Personal/Vacation Time - 90%
  • Open-door/accessible management - 89%
  • Interesting, challenging client projects - 88%

While salary is the first item on the list, the next 4 are strong contenders for retaining your top talent and certainly should not be ignored.   Often firms spend enormous amounts of time, energy and resources working on the compensation increases and bonuses and no time on other retention factors.  If you want to make engagement truly sustainable, a substantial amount of time and energy should also be spent on the remaining 4 addition factors.  

Making Engagement Sustainable

Sustainable engagement is an important evolution in the science of workforce behavior.  It recognizes that employees need support from their employer to continue to give discretionary effort on the job.  Unfortunately, employees are not getting the level of support they need.  Enablement and energy are critical factors in this equation.  Engagement will only hold over time with these elements in place.  Think about your firm.  How much time are you spending as a leadership group working on the full list above?  If you think you have the answer, you might be surprised if you ask you team what they think.  

Understanding Engagement Gaps

It is important for leadership to understand the gap between what they are thinking and what the team is thinking in regards to engagement.  There are several ways to accomplish an effective engagement evaluation in your firm, including focus groups and surveys.  The more anonymous the group or survey is the better results you will receive.  Identifying the gaps that exist between what leadership is thinking and what the staff is thinking and then building goals that will narrow the gap will increase the trust in your firm.  And when trust increases, so does engagement!

It is everyone’s role in the firm to help close the gaps in employee’s feelings of enablement and energy – from partners to managers, to administration – they should all be included.  

Money is Important, But So Are Other Factors

Outside of the PCPS Study, there are many other studies and experts who agree that money matters, but they are not the end of the story.  In March 2012,, an online personality, career and IQ assessment company, released research on the top motivators for employees. The data collected between August 2011 and February 2012 revealed that out of a list of 23 work motivators, "financial reward” was ranked 12th. For men, financial reward was eighth on the list; for women, 15th. Seventy percent of the 1,194 employees surveyed were from North America. Sixty-four percent of respondents were under the age of 30.

The top five motivators reported were:

  • Customer orientation—the desire to make customers happy. 
  • Achievement—the desire to work in a goal-oriented and challenging work environment. 
  • Inspiration—the desire to inspire others through one's work. 
  • Identity and Purpose—the desire to work in a company/field that is in line with one's values and ethics. 
  • Fun & Enjoyment—the desire to work in a position/corporate culture that is inherently entertaining.
Think about how this survey intersects with the PCPS findings.  PCPS said career growth opportunities, paid personal/vacation time, open door accessible management and interesting challenging client projects are highly important to our top talent.  They are very similar to the study that you see above.  It proves that what we are hearing has merit, and the great firms seeking their vision for future leaders don’t have much further to look than right here.  

Tags:  employee engagement 

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