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Employee Engagement in Difficult Times

Now more than ever, employers must ensure they turn their focus to employee engagement in order to survive.

In a typical year, employees may experience downsizings, budget cuts, and the reduction or elimination of bonuses and increases. While employees are a resilient bunch, and many are thankful to have a job, it is up to employers to foster a positive and engaging environment for both the good of the people, and the organization.

Economic downturns are a natural part of the business cycle, and employees can rationalize not getting a bonus during tough economic times, but it is important for employers to recognize that once things turn around and the job market improves, employees will look at how they are treated as a signal to their continued commitment to the organization. While you may not be able to pay out a bonus, there are many ways to continue to engage your employees and help them be a part of your organization’s future.

Happiness and engagement are tightly linked – if employees are happy in their jobs, it contributes to overall engagement.

  1. Learn what your employees value – not everyone wants to be recognized in the same fashion – some employees love the spotlight and want to be publicly engaged. Others just want to be taken aside and thanked for doing a good job. Good leaders know what their employees value, and know how to get the most from them. Is it company branded merchandise that makes your employees happy; meaningful work; a cash award; a role in decision-making; or just a simple pat on the back?
     
  2. Listen to employees – listen lots. Employees need leaders that they feel share in their success and understand who they are and what makes them tick. Engage your employees and take the time to build relationships and dialogue. Listening to what employees have to say helps create a culture of engagement. It can also give us valuable insight into what is concerning our employees.
     
  3. Culture is at the heart of the relationship between companies and their employees. Does corporate success breed high engagement and good culture, or is it the other way around? Companies with engaged workforces report that they work hand-in-hand. If leaders are aligned with the values of the company, and truly walk the walk, there is evidence that this helps improve employee engagement. Show employees that teamwork is valued, and that what they say matters, no matter what the hierarchical level. Role-modelling behaviour is key to helping employees know what is expected of them within a broader organizational context.
     
  4. In an audit conducted by NATIONAL Public Relations, Madano and AXON, of almost 40 organizations in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., 93% of the participants identified the importance of information flow and its impact on decisions. Many organizations appear to be struggling with how to help executives relinquish “power” and share decision-making. And with new access and expectations around shared decision-making, organizations are also faced with how to line up employee work to the bigger picture and define clear priorities for them. Across the participants, there was a desire to find new ways to align employees and executives towards a common goal and purpose – a sense of direction. It was widely recognized that providing a clear line of sight to the organizational focus, and repeating the message clearly and consistently, led to higher engagement. The premise of inform, engage and empower resonated with many of the participants.

The good news is that employers can directly influence, either positively or negatively, an employee’s engagement and therefore, their commitment to their job by creating an environment where the employee feels compelled to work for the organization. Employee engagement strategies strengthen that bond between employee and employers and empower the employee to work in the best interests of the organization. Truly enlightened organizations know that employee engagement is what excites employees to be energized about their work and want to part of the collective solutions – ultimately rowing in the right direction.

Most significantly, in the end, what’s important for employees is how you treat them.

To learn more about how we can help you with employee engagement, contact: 

NATIONAL

Nancy H. Arab (Calgary)
Claire Alter (Vancouver)
Jamie Jo Alton (Toronto)
Laurel Taylor (Halifax)
Sylvie Tessier (Montreal)

Madano

Samantha Dawe (London)