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What drives employee engagement?

According to a recent Gallup poll on the State of the American Workplace, “70% of U.S. Workers Are Not Engaged at Work“.  The dictionary describes ‘engaged’ as committed, involved, interested…  So, that means that only 30% of working Americans have a true sense of belonging in their job or at their organization.  If that’s true, are we in a downward spiral or can this be resolved?  Experts have a lot to say about employee engagement and the strategies to address it.

Bob Lavigna, Director of the Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement, a division of CPS HR Consulting has become an authority on what motivates people to want to contribute to the success of an organization.  He considers leadership to be the #1 driver of engagement.  “You can’t get anything done unless you have talent, but in government there is less opportunity to reward monetarily.”  So how do you keep an employee feeling like they are appreciated?  In his paper, Improving Employee Engagement: A Public Sector Leadership Imperative, Lavigna describes areas of focus that employers can adopt to keep employees satisfied.  Examples include:

  • Make building a culture of engagement a strategic priority – In other words, engagement across the organization, not just an HR program/goal.
  • Improve communication – If surveys are used to measure engagement, announce the results to the workforce and what they can expect as an outcome.
  • Ensure that employees believe that their opinions count – Respect and trust are impactful motivators regardless of the situation.

Gregg Gordon, the Vice President of the Data Science Practice Group at Kronos Incorporated and author of the new book Your Last Differentiator: Human Capital was recently interviewed for an article in Forbes Magazine about trusting and respecting the talent found within an organization.  Gordon believes “Transparency means sharing with employees the strategy of an organization and the challenges it faces. They are the ones in the trenches and understand many aspects of the business and market.”

This particularly rings true in government.  Public service is often criticized for it’s lack of compassion when budget cuts impact vital programs.  Public servants are sometimes caught in the middle when they aren’t part of a decision, yet are face-to-face with the citizens who are the recipients of these programs.  These employees have built relationships with the public and should be considered to offer valuable advice.

As organizations continue to adopt engagement strategies, it’s important to focus on being in the employees shoes.  What would inspire you to stick around and give your employer the best you have to offer?


Student Loan Payment – Another employee benefit

Student loan debt is growing at an alarming rate.  US student loan debt in the US in 2017 is at $1.3 trillion.  That’s Trillion with a “T”.  It’s no wonder that employees feel underwhelmed on payday when a good chunk of their pay is going to their student loans.  I recently read an article on the City of Memphis and their effort to help employees deal with this very real issue.

Memphis put a new program in place for employees who have been with the city for at least one year to contribute $50/m to an employees student loan account.  For the lucky ones who never had student loan debt, subsidizing $600 a year may not seem like a lot, but it actually can bring the length of the loan down by quite a bit.  This is a fantastic way to attract employees and potentially keep them.

Though I haven’t heard any stories about those in Memphis taking advantage of this benefit, there are some stories from the private sector that highlight just how powerful this can be to any retention strategy.  A 23 year old working at PricewaterhouseCoopers spoke about how grateful she is to this benefit to help her knock down the $57,000 she has in student loans.  “When someone helps you, it makes you feel appreciated.”

We might be a long way to seeing this widely adopted across more of the public sector, but as it grows in the private sector it will be something to contend with.  While only about 4% of companies offered some form of student loan assistance in 2016, that could increase five-fold to 20% by 2018, according to a survey of 320 companies by Willis Towers Watson.  Unconventional benefits are becoming the new norm.

The Influence of Payroll Errors on Retention

No one wants to be paid less than they deserve, but just how impactful are payroll errors to employee morale and retention?  A recent study done by the Workforce Institute at Kronos on American workers reveals how just one payroll error can change an employees perception of their workplace.

According to the research, “nearly half of American workers (49 percent) will seek new employment after just two payroll mistakes, such as being paid late or incorrectly.”  A staggering 24% will look for new employment after the first offense and another 25% said they will do this after the second mistake.  This demonstrates just how seriously employees take their paycheck.  It doesn’t matter if you are struggling to make ends meet or saving money for retirement, your paycheck is a reward for your hard work.

Another interesting fact divulged by the study is “Baby Boomers are most forgiving of payroll errors.”  We know there are differences among the generations when it comes to compensation, see Compensation Among the Generations, but there is also a variation in tolerance for a blunder of their pay.  “Nearly half (44 percent) of American employees aged 55 and older say they would stay at their job as long as they are eventually paid correctly. That’s in stark contrast to their colleagues aged 18-29 (13 percent,) 30-39 (17 percent,) and 40-54 (27 percent,) who are much less willing to stay even if they’re eventually paid correctly.”

As states and localities continue to refine their recruitment and retention strategies, these are important facts to consider.  It might not be how much you get paid, but rather how accurately you get paid.  For more stats, read Payroll Problems May Undermine Employee Experience, Finds Workforce Institute at Kronos Survey.

Transparency: A Tale of Three Cities

Although the GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) Conference is more than a week behind us, I got a chance this week to reflect on my notes.  In addition to the How to Measure a High Performing Finance Office session that I blogged about last week, I attended another powerful session on transparency.  The panelists represented small, medium, and large municipalities which provided an interesting perspective of how resources may vary, but impact on citizens remained top priority.

The City of Sunrise, AZ offers their citizens a “closer look at the city’s books” with a portal called “It’s Your Money“.  Dig into this site and you’ll find easy to access information about all expenditures per department.  And as media requests for salary information remain one of the top FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) inquiries, it makes sense that Surprise puts the information out there instead of spending administrative hours per individual request.

The City of Jackson, MS is embracing open data and the idea that it can be used to create a sense of community.  Check out the JackStats site to learn about downtown development, employment opportunities and financial stability to name a few.  It not only provides the data and dollars spent, but it shows the status of the goal and if it was achieved.  An “open book” allows citizens to feel more engaged and part of the solution.

The City of Los Angeles, CA is striving to meet aggressive open data goals and even open checkbook objectives. Their payroll department alone oversees the pay of 45,000 employees.  And if you want to peruse through this information you just visit the Payroll Explorer website.

Their stats across all facets of the city are fascinating and dive into areas you wouldn’t even think of on your own.  Did you know that their data shows that UPS and FedEx are the top two offenders for parking tickets?  I know, that’s not surprising, I mean how else are they going to get us our packages on time? However, when they looked at the data even closer they were able to determine that this is equivalent to needing 12 Full Time Employees just to manage the parking tickets for these two companies.

Transparency plays a pivotal role in our lives.  The more information we have about our community and surroundings, the better we can advocate for what we need.  And cities can respond with data-driven decisions.