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?
Employees are the most valuable assets of an organization. Government entities rely on them to deliver services to the community and often times they go above and beyond what is within their job description when resources are tight. Yet when looking for areas of efficiency and ways to save money, they aren’t always the first to be asked.
Historically, employees on the front lines have been overlooked as idea generators. In 1911, Frederick Taylor published “The Principles of Scientific Management” to address the relationship between managers and those employees who are on the front lines. His theory that managers were the planners and the employees were there to perform the tasks was well received during his time. But over time, employers have evolved to recognize someone performing “tasks” may have more insight on how to create efficiency or come up with a new process than someone who sits at a distance.
Many states are looking within for innovative ways to improve services and save money. Pennsylvania, launched a website so employees can submit cost saving ideas to help balance the budget. California has something similar called the Employee Suggestion Program. In a 2014 interview with Kari Ehrman, Merit Award Program Manager, she was asked what makes this program so successful; she responded, “The main reason was because it received top management support”.
Programs like this help drive employee engagement. Many take pride in what they do. If they find a way to make something more efficient, cost effective, or safer, their ideas should be heard. More collaboration between employees and leaders can result in a more productive workforce.
Retention seems to be a popular word this year. HR leaders across all levels of government are in a state of worry. Attract and retain… Attract and retain… This is the mantra by which public sector employers are living and breathing. So what’s all the fuss about?
As more employees are reaching retirement age, they know a plethora of knowledge will be walking out the door with each employee. So governments are deep in succession planning and strategizing to address this. But it’s also made many acutely aware that they need to figure out ways to retain this new generation of employees who are filling in these gaps. With pensions in the condition they are and pay often lower than the private sector, what’s the draw to make them want to stay?
Regardless of the generation, people still believe in making a difference. Whether it’s for their community or to make a difference in peoples lives, public service tends to draw people in. But it doesn’t necessarily make them want to stay. Employees want to be recognized for a job well done and offered opportunities to advance their careers. They want to be part of decision making and know their voice is being heard.
According to an article written by Neil Reichenburg of IPMA-HR, Getting the Right People, employee engagement matters. “Engaged employees are five times more likely to be very satisfied, five times more likely to recommend their place of employment to others, and four times less likely to leave.”
Engagement is not a one-size fits all; we are all individuals. What motivates one person, might not motivate the next. As managers and leaders address the reality of what retention means to their organization, they will discover there are multiple paths to create an environment employees can thrive in. And maybe, the employees who came into the public sector for the right reasons will want to stay a little while longer.
Regardless of what industry you are in, employees want to work for an organization that truly cares about them. I’m fortunate to work in that kind of environment. Check out this YouTube Video for a sneak peek into my world.