Focus on Employee Engagement, Attachment for Success

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HR Managers at HR SouthwestOur local HR Managers recently attended the HR Southwest conference in Fort Worth, Texas.  HR Southwest is one of the largest regional HR conferences in the country, and while it is recognized as the Texas SHRM conference, HRSW attracts HR professionals from across the country.  This two and a half day event features an expert lineup of educational sessions, nationally renowned keynote speakers, and great networking opportunities.

While I have been participating in this conference for years, this year’s theme, “Plug In and Power Up for 2018,” resonated with me.  Most of the sessions I attended concentrated on retention strategies and preparing for a changing workplace as Baby Boomers continue to exit the workforce at a steady rate; specifically, employee engagement and attachment.

Jill Christenson of Jill Christenson International discussed the importance of forming a company-wide engagement strategy for which all members of management are accountable.  She was adamant that employers throw away the constant and ever-changing engagement initiatives and trade up to an engagement strategy that aligns with the strategic goals of the business.

Christenson defined employee engagement as a mutual commitment between employees and the company and explained that engagement happens when employees genuinely trust leadership and feel an emotional attachment or connection to the company or organization.  This was a very impactful presentation for me, as I learned that 87 percent of employees are disengaged.  Think of it this way:  you are the coach of a rowing team of 10, where three are rowing (engaged), five are checking out the scenery (disengaged), and two are literally trying to sink the boat (actively disengaged).  Now, think of the boat as a company and you get the picture.

Christensen also explained the difference between being engaged and being happy or satisfied.  For example, having a company dog lick your face while you have a free beer and play video games on your break will make employees happy.  But will it illicit an emotional connection to your company?  Most likely not.

Another session I attended was with Jimmy Taylor, a BizMultiplier partner, whom I consider a recruitment and employee engagement guru.  He presented the theory that all new hires start off being 100 percent engaged with the company and their engagement and attachment to the company remains “moldable” through the first 120 days.  After that time, it is set like concrete unless the employee changes positions, departments, or managers.  His strategy is to focus on your front line managers, as they control the relationship with the employee. Training your front line managers in successful recruitment and onboarding from Day One.  Taylor stresses that onboarding is not orientation (Note: the author has discussed the difference between the two in a previous post.).  He states that new hires all want the same four questions answered:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. How are we going to get there?
  3. What is my role?
  4. What’s in it for me?

Line Managers must be trained in the in the process of hiring and managing for engagement – from candidate sourcing through performance management to employee exits.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg of what was available to HR professionals at the HR Southwest conference!  I’m excited to put the things I’ve learned to work for my clients as we look forward to 2018.

When we consider that our country’s unemployment rate is finally back to where it was more than 10 years ago, along with the Boomers exiting the workforce faster than the millennials and generation Z can enter it, some, if not most, industries will see a significant shortage of qualified candidates.  I believe that employers will need to shift their focus to creating a more inclusive, flexible, and engaging workplace for their employees so they can continue to retain their top talent while attracting more of the same.

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