Employee Engagement: A Best Practice in Building a Strong Corporate Culture
The following article originally appeared in the June 2016 edition of Silicon India magazine.
Engagement is a word that has multiple meanings. But in my eyes as a vice president of human resources, focusing on employee engagement is something the best companies to work for pay close attention to. While there are many areas that could fall under the engagement umbrella, it's best to focus on a key few in order to have a positive outcome for employees as well as overall company health and success. In my experience, a company is served well by having high-level initiatives driven from the top while empowering the local/regional locations to adapt these programs. The current three areas of focus for my team are community, wellness and culture.
I have found that getting employees involved and giving them a voice as to what programs are meaningful to them creates engagement from the start. The structure that works well for us is having a corporate committee made up of diverse team members who champion programs and events in these three areas; then at each office location there are local employee committees who drive the programs, making changes and tweaks to serve the needs of that particular employee base. The key to making this work is to have things in common at the highest level while keeping in mind the local interests and passions.
One commonality for my team is community involvement and giving back to others. Many of our offices organize events to raise money for charity or to collect goods such as toys or warm winter coats. Other teams are focused on hands-on activities, working at a charity to repair buildings or sort donations for example. Community involvement is such a big part of our culture that twice a year our global sales organization gets involved in a project, timed with the annual sales kick-off as well as the President's club reward trip. It's a great way for employees to feel involved and valued outside of their day-to-day job and the satisfaction of doing a good deed is embraced by all generations in the workplace.
Turning to wellness, there are a lot of things a company can do to engage employees on this important topic. Since the lines between work and personal time are blurring more & more, any resources that a company can bring into the work environment will be appreciated by the staff. For instance, our India office sponsors lectures by doctors on various health topics. In the U.S., winter flu shot clinics are scheduled and regular chair massages are offered. And globally, we've sponsored a Step Challenge to encourage people to be more active in a friendly virtual competition with others from inside and outside the company. These programs engage employees in a topic that is important to all - health & wellness and overall well-being and development.
Another key area for gaining employee engagement is culture. Culture of course is comprised of many facets - one of the most important of which is open communications. Open, frequent communications from the executive team are critical in ensuring that the employees stay informed and aligned with the corporate goals. This helps employees connect their individual activities to the larger priorities of the company. And of course, communications is more than just emails - bringing all employees together for quarterly meetings, for instance, as well as scheduling social activities such as pancake breakfasts and summer picnics all lead to developing relationships which create stronger engagement. These activities go a long way in developing trust and connectedness of the entire team.
Lastly, engagement can be increased with a strong focus on employee advancement. In today's competitive work environment, it's critical to provide opportunities from within the company so that existing employees have options for lateral moves as well as advancement in their current position. The desire to tackle new challenges is universal among job function, location and experience level. My current company is very focused on career advancement with all jobs publicly posted and about 10 percent of open positions are filled by current employees. A focus on career development keeps employees engaged throughout their time at an organization.
Gallup recently reported that the most highly engaged business units are 21 percent more productive, 22 percent more profitable, have 10 percent better customer ratings and experience 37 percent less absenteeism. These are powerful numbers! Even if your goals for employee engagement are in single digits, the message is clear - a focus on this important area will reap rewards. There are many ways to engage employees and these ideas are just a few that work well for my team; hopefully you can leverage them in your organization as well.
Katherine Mancuso has more than 20 years of experience in human resources working with technology companies – both early stage and mature public companies – with global management expertise in all areas of HR. She works closely with ShoreTel’s management team to ensure the company has the talent required to meet business objectives and a culture reflective of company beliefs and values that enable employees to thrive.