In the past few years, employees lucky enough to find interesting work with a growing firm have been challenged by the escalating number of hours they must work in order to accomplish the tasks they have been assigned. This increase in number of hours is mostly due to the fact that there are less experienced people to do the same amount of work—or more—than ever before.
Mergers and acquisitions, along with organic growth, are on the upswing. Acquisition of experienced staff is on the decline. These two factors working in concert together produced a perfect storm for creating the war on talent that our profession is right in the middle of today. An ever-increasing strategy, and in some people’s minds, a buzzword, to combat this war to retain and motivate our team is employee engagement.
Employees in our profession typically spend anywhere from 2,080 to 2,500 hours at work every year. Because this is more time than they spend with their families, we must admit to ourselves that engagement should be a very important strategy in any firm of any size.
In a recent Gallup poll, it is reported that only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work, a pretty paltry number by anyone’s standards. In that same report, definitions are given of the types of employees in today’s workforce. They are as follows:
- Engaged employees—Those who work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.
- Non-Engaged—Those who are essentially “checked out.” They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time—but not energy or passion—into their work.
- Actively Disengaged—Those who are not just unhappy at work; they are busy acting out their unhappiness every day. These workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.
The challenge is that we don’t really think deeply about what employee engagement is, why it is so important, or where to start in the strategic development of engagement to improve firm culture. What we do understand is that we need and want our emerging leaders to make the choice to stay with the firm. The keys to making that choice are in retention and motivation. Employee retention is accomplished by creating strategies to keep the best and the brightest. It is the ability to connect the firm’s needs with the passion of the individual. Firm leaders must put the time into identifying the unique abilities (and personal desires) of each person and then develop strategies to allow individuals to practice those abilities. Motivating employees is accomplished by creating strategies to ensure each person is inspired to use his or her internal drive to take action and feel emotionally fulfilled. Oh, and by the way, the firm leaders need to ensure this is done with a limited amount of time and dollars to invest.
Top-performing firms recognize that employee engagement can drive business outcomes. The theory that engaged employees are more productive, more profitable, more client-focused, and more likely to stay is a powerful message that firm leaders are interested in hearing more about. Highly engaged firms will grow faster, adapt quicker, and innovate more. Firms won’t just benefit from employee engagement; they will come to depend on it over time.
Read Sandra’s new book, The Engaged Employee, to learn 10 initiatives that your firm can put into place now to ensure that you will have the best chance at retaining the best and the brightest.