Employee Engagement is your Casino Royale

Armed with a license to achieve excellence and peak performance, leaders today must continue to stay fresh, stimulating their employees with a proven and exciting engagement process. Even after they setout to defeat mediocrity and the many villains against success for their organizations in a high stakes game of change, their loyalties continue to be tested when things don't always go as planned. While the leadership strategies for the organization remain under constant attack, leaders must destroy the threats, no matter how personal the cost.

Now, if you think that this sounds like a multi-million dollar film trailer taken directly from a 007 James Bond film, you're right. As a Bond fan over the last four decades and now an entrepreneur responsible to lead my organizational leaders towards my vision for a promised Future Picture, my role for the company seems to be similar to the feats faced by Bond himself. Employee engagement and retention today feels like a Daniel Craig Casino Royale or Skyfall mission against the menacing outside world looking to dismantle the leadership goals that are in place to protect the organization. However, what's critical for leaders to understand is how the two have emerged as the greatest challenge facing talent management initiatives now more than any time before.

Similar to past periods of economic instability, leaders remain constant in their focus on the financial aspects of the organization rather than the professional development or the workforce. Similarly, research shows that they are placing less emphasis on employee engagement even with unemployment rates leveling off. A significant mistake leaders are making is to think that current employees are happy to have a job causing them to spend little to no time on the engagement aspect in talent management. This mindset is not only inaccurate, but it is outright wrong. During times on economic instability, organizations are more prone to loosing top performers. Employees are looking to be challenged, valued and made to feel a significant part of a system where their voice is not only heard, but trusted in a way that it matters to the overall mission.

With these things in mind, this segment of the series is focused on an innovative way for leaders to Target-Identify-Minimize-Execute employee engagement in order to reap the tangible and intangible benefits for the organization as well as for the employees. Research has also shown that there are clear correlations between employee engagement, performance, productivity and ultimately profitability.

Here at DPI Consulting, we believe that professional development using an innovative approach is essential for accomplishing effective employee engagement, increasing performance and productivity and ultimately profitability. A specific innovative approach introduced for employee engagement is known as TIME, and as leaders learn to use the approach as a strategic tool to achieve their employee goals, turnover and absenteeism will be decreased, while productivity and profitability increases. TIME for employee engagement and retention is defined as:

  • Target the right energy.
  • Identify the efforts for good growth.
  • Minimize unnecessary behaviors that cause poor habits.
  • Execute strategic initiatives for employees to integrate welcomed innovation into the organization.

With opportunities to decrease turnover and absenteeism and increase productivity and profitability, this innovative approach might be worth paying attention to for leaders to overcome the villains to success within their employee engagement initiatives. TIME as an innovative approach is used to successfully engage and retain current staff within the workplace. For your review, we've outlined each segment in the TIME strategy that's essential for engaging and retaining top performers throughout your organization's talent lifecycle.

Target the right energy.

There are two things that every organization must do to Target the right energy. First, leaders must establish a well designed employment brand. This is no different than establishing a brand for your organization. It builds the organization using the people first concept to tell a story about the organization and its strategic intent.

This strategy allows for current and future candidates to gage a story about the organization's direction for the Future Picture. Establishing an employment brand also works as a recruiting tool in today's social media climate. Now that sites such as LinkedIn allows for organizations to have a corporate page whereby the employees of the firm are able to connect, the organization is able to establish a reputation about the type of workplace and if it's a good place to work that will help to ensure a steady stream of candidates in the pipeline. The employment brand must become an integral component in the organization's talent management process and when achieved, your employees will become the life of your healthy brand.

Next, establish and maintain a robust employee pipeline. Why is this so critical? Simply because of change. As the needs of the organization remain in a transitional state, leaders will become efficient when filling the needs throughout the system with highly qualified personnel. Employment branding is essential here because it helps the pipeline build organically ready to ear mark future staff associates for specific positions. Establishing and maintaining a robust employee pipeline doesn't mean simply collecting resumes. Leaders need to be proactive in vetting future staff so that when the time comes to fill an opportunity for the organization, they are able to target the right energy for the right opportunity.

Debrief: When leaders Target the right energy, they must establish a well designed employment brand and establish and maintain a robust employee pipeline.

Identify the efforts for good growth.

Good growth can only be achieved when leaders practice effective communications with their employees. Communication is a contact sport that requires two sides to engage in a team sport to ensure both sides have their FEET on stable ground and pointing in the right direction to secure the Future Picture. This can only be achieved when they understand fully what is going on to identify how to communicate their intentions towards their critical successes. Communicating their intentions is done through Expressive Leadership; traits used by leaders and teams to effectively communicate the direction that arrives at excellence. Leaders do not command excellence; they communicate their intent for and build towards excellence. Excellence is “ensuring everyone understands how to Better their Best” within the bounds of doing what is right for the team or organization. Expressive Leadership is also a form of influence used within team-led environments before, during and after a mission is underway to improve communications, while removing any chance of failure. It is a major contribution to, and a significant trait found within the efforts for good growth that achieves effective employee engagement.

Employees want to feel valued. A critical mistake that some leaders make is a lack of communication that causes employees to disengage. Employees very easily believe that they are just another individual in an organization that only cares about making revenue. Expressive Leadership offers its own philosophy that starts off by asking leaders to consider carrying forward the impact of tough and somewhat fierce conversations that do not feel good in the moment, but serve an overall objective for employee engagement in the long-run. This trait makes room for enhanced compassion, empathy, caring and praise throughout the overall team and workplace. It offers opportunities that cut to the chase to ensure that all communications are clear and precise leaving little-to-no room for misguided intent. It also builds improved proficiencies that leverage Aristotle's “Golden Mean” philosophy; explaining how there's a desirable middle between two extremes and employee engagement along with effective communications represent the two extremes.

The other thing that leaders must do to identify efforts for good growth is to offer continuous training and development for their employees. Satisfaction with training and development are key factors influencing employee engagement, especially when leaders invest in good growth areas for the firm and employee's role within the organization (a good growth way to leverage Aristotle's “Golden Mean” philosophy). Employee engagement means knowledge sharing and studies have shown that specific topic areas such as leadership and teambuilding (collaboration) increases retention and engagement to make a significant difference. Establishing an employee professional development program that provides extended training programs in various areas sends a strong message that the organization values the individual's employment.

Just the opposite, certain schools of thought argue that poor leadership and non-effective communication within an organization is the root of most problems in employee disengagement scenarios. Employee satisfaction is directly related to satisfaction with their direct leadership team. Unsatisfied employees are characteristically disengaged. To rectify the challenges that lead to disengagement (a failure to fully understand the contact sport), leading organizations have recognized the critical importance of instituting professional development initiatives and programs to include effective communications and strategic leadership that stimulate the engagement and learning process.

Debrief: When leaders Identify the efforts for good growth to increase employee engagement, they must fully understand the contact sport of effective communications, while striving to develop a workplace that encourages training, professional development and knowledge sharing.

Minimize unnecessary behaviors that cause poor habits.

Employee engagement is not about developing more structure, more systems or more processes. It is not about fixing anything, or changing anything. It is not about better ways of “doing” something. It is not change management or re-engineering or even strategic planning as you might know it. It is not about implementing a better methodology or about process improvement. It is not about raising team member's morale. It is not about higher productivity or better leadership.

While these things are tremendously useful for organizational performance, they are not the focus of the work a leader should be doing to ensure their employees remain engaged. At the same time, they all do occur naturally in the process of a full-scale employee engagement initiative where leaders are focused on improving talents within their organization. Now at this point you should be thinking, “This guy has gone mad!” The truth of the matter is all of these things are what every leader and organization should already be doing anyway, but leaders find themselves stuck in the weeds doing the work in the organization, while spending little time doing the work on the organization. Spending more time working in versus working on the organization creates a series of bad habits that in the end will ultimately lead to a crash-and-burn situation. This behavior sends a contrasting message to employees that revenue is the only thing that matters. The key is to minimize these unnecessary behaviors that cause poor habits.

Employee engagement is about what naturally makes teams great! When leaders decide to do the opposite – spending more time working on the organization and less time working in the organization – the organization has a better chance of improving the employee engagement process. By removing themselves from the weeds and changing their altitude (perspective and vision), leaders have a better chance to Identify the efforts for good growth, while minimizing unnecessary behaviors that cause poor habits to be developed, matured and repeated. This is the beginning of a good growth situation that leads to better habits and effective employee engagement.

Employee engagement is about team associates, leaders and employees, aligning on a shared future and mission, committing to shared values and principles, and then bringing into existence effective engagement for the whole organization (give and take) whereby everyone wins. Its about providing direction, clear direction, for the organization using the team's precise actions to achieve all assigned objectives and goals within each mission it is assigned. It is about unleashing the natural power inherent in an organization where people are passionately committed to fulfilling a vision. It is about every individual in the organization making a valued contribution for which they can be proud. It is about people working together synergistically, in coordinated action, to accomplish what they hold as highly desirable.

Employee engagement is about supporting employees in creating a new organizational and team-led context in which far-reaching transformation can occur rapidly and effortlessly. It is about generating a freshly stated employee and team-led context in which improvements, implementing new methodologies, committing to new standards of excellence, developing new capacities, developing new habits and setting new performance principles are a natural occurrence.

While much of employee engagement is about developing great teams who understand how to chart the path of organizational politics, it is far from “soft.” It deals with the tough operational issues that must be resolved for teams working in concert with their organizations to accomplish the extraordinary. Issues like commitment, accountability, contribution and remaining on task to achieve an assigned mission flawlessly and strategically (the team's integrity and character), open and honest communication, trust, possibility, empowering others and ultimately producing results. It has to do with people going beyond their perceived limits for their team, individually and collectively, and having fun in the process. Employee engagement is about positioning the organization to become a place where teams thrive because of the standards set by everyone, and where they do great work without asking for rewards. They just do… and all else follows!

Debrief: When leaders Minimize unnecessary behaviors that cause poor habits, they are able to focus on identifying the efforts for good growth to improve employee engagement that leads to better habits forming throughout the organization. This also improves the employment brand that establishes and maintains a robust employee pipeline in the end.

Execute strategic initiatives for employees to integrate welcomed innovation into the organization.

As so eloquently stated by David Zinger, M.Ed., author of “Zengage: How to get more Into your work to get more Out of your work,” employees are responsible for their own engagement, we are all accountable for everyone's engagement. No one has a bigger role in engagement than the individual themselves – if engagement is to be, it must be up to me.

We are accountable for other people's engagement and we can influence their engagement, but at the same time, leaders must be willing to execute strategic initiatives for employees to integrate welcomed innovation into the organization. If engagement is to be, it must be up to WE!

Debrief: When leaders Execute strategic initiatives for employees to integrate welcomed innovation into the organization, employee engagement becomes the work of everyone. No one has a bigger role in engagement than the individual themselves. Ultimately, employee engagement is a serious contact sport with everyone having a key role in the game if a win is to be achieved.

Establishing an effective employee engagement and retention process means that leaders must do what is necessary to wake-up their employees with a well designed innovative process. Everyone has to have some skin in the game if this contact sport has any chance of being successful. As stated earlier in the article, employees are looking to be challenged, valued and made to feel a significant part of a system where their voice is not only heard, but trusted in a way that it matters to the overall mission. TIME offers a strategic option for everyone to Target-Identify-Minimize-Execute a successful employee engagement process to reap the tangible and intangible benefits for the organization as well as everyone involved.

It would be wise for leaders to use their time wisely to ensure that an efficient use of energy and strategy encompasses the professional development process for the employees. Employee engagement and retention means WAKING UP everyone to new perspectives and an innovative approach to achieving what needs to be done to get to the finish line and winning together.

I'll look forward to seeing you in the next part of the series titled “Collaboration and Reciprocity MUST BE Rooted in Employee Engagement to Ensure Employee Retention.”

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