The war for talent

Can’t find qualified labor? Upgrade the employees you have.

I am not referring to that memelike dialogue between managers that goes, “What if we spend time and money training our employees and they quit?” To which the other asks, “What if we don’t and they stay?” Though that’s an important consideration as well.

Work has become “just a job” for many people, and according to HR Dive, 88 percent of workers would consider pursuing a new job opportunity. It is no wonder that 53 percent of workers are unhappy at work, according to Forbes, and 61 percent are burned out (stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, anger), according to CareerBuilder. Workers want more than paychecks.

A higher salary does not equate to engagement. The Harvard Business Review performed a meta-analysis of 92 studies and found that the correlation between pay and motivation is nearly nonexistent. The review shared that “there is a less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels.”

I often hear frustrated business owners question why they can’t get more out of their employees. The research argues that it’s not the employees, it’s the level of employee engagement.

“Engagement,” also referred to as “ownership,” is easily defined for the actual owner — it’s the owner’s name, reputation and livelihood. Employees define it differently than the owner; as the owner, you should honor that and invest to ensure that your employees find that connection.

If your employees feel disconnected from your mission, then you’re not going to have engaged employees. You may argue that the goal is to make a profit, but profit comes as a result of achieving your mission — creating value for your customers.

Once you give your employees the responsibility to create value, they have the framework to execute. You may be surprised to see how much more your employees are willing to give you. Engagement makes great employees out of good employees.

You probably think that, except for a few outliers, your employees are engaged. But, your employees talk differently to colleagues than they do to you — they are more honest with their colleagues. According to the ADP Research Institute, only 16 percent of workers consider themselves thoroughly engaged. According to Trade Press Services, 85 percent of employees are most motivated when internal communications are effective.

How important is it to have engaged employees? Companies that make employee engagement central to their strategy have better cash flow. According to Gallup, firms with a higher level of employee engagement report 21 percent higher profitability than those with lower levels and recover from recessions more quickly. There are similar studies from MIT Sloan, John Kotter and AON Hewitt.

This improvement in profitability is partly because engaged workers are more productive (16 percent higher for white-collar workers and 27 percent higher for blue-collar workers, according to McKinsey). Other reports found that customer ratings improved 10 percent, quality defects fell 41 percent, absenteeism improved by 37 percent and shrinkage, well, shrunk by 28 percent.

Engaged employees create a domino effect. Engaged employees deliver ownerlike effort, which results in excellent customer experiences. Those happy customers refer and repurchase, which drives the growth of your business.

One measurement of engagement is the Employee Net Promoter Score, calculated by having your employees take the Gallup 12 Employee Engagement survey.

The Gallup 12 Employee Engagement tool has a demonstrable impact on the overall profitability of your company. Companies with Employee Net Promoter Score results in the bottom quartile generate earnings per share of about $100. Top-quartile performers earn more than $260 per share.

The Gallup 12 Employee Engagement survey is a simple, frugal, concise explanation of how you can change your employment brand and enhance corporate performance. Each survey question is statistically linked to improving earnings per share. The answers give you a sense of which levers you must pull to increase your profit.

This survey should be anonymous, but not a surprise. You want to tell your employees to expect the survey and that their participation is a way to have their voice heard. The Gallup 12 Employee Engagement survey questions are:

Q1: I know what is expected of me at work.

Q2: I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

Q3: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

Q4: In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

Q5: My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

Q6: There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Q7: At work, my opinion seems to count.

Q8: The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

Q9: My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

Q10: I have a best friend at work.

Q11: In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

Q12: This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

By asking for feedback, you are setting the expectation for change. You need to follow up, or else your people won’t feel heard. The message you want to send to your employees is that it’s safe to share what they think, and the company cares about employee input.

You should openly share the survey findings and tell employees the specific actions you will take to improve the workplace experience. Let employees know their voice had an impact. According to Forbes, employees who feel that their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to give their best work.

The Gallup 12 Employee Engagement questions allow you to isolate which areas in your management style you need to change to improve overall engagement, which increases company profitability. You can learn more about implementing the Gallup 12 Employee Engagement survey at Gallup.com.

This article originally appeared in The Berkshire Eagle on June 5, 2021.