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Emilia Marius

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A Strategy to Move to an Engaged Corporate Culture


The workplace has changed drastically over the last few years. This is partially due to digital disruption, but also because the employer-employee relationship has changed. There are strong parallels between the characteristics of a modern employee and a modern customer; we have been describing employees as "internal customers" for some years now, without really analyzing what this implies to our business. What is clear, is that most organizations have a serious problem on their hands - disengaged employees. In the latest Gallup report on the US workplace, it was reported that only 33 percent of the US workforce was engaged and fully committed to their work. Jim Clifton, CEO and Chairman of Gallup, in his foreword, encapsulates what this means to the US economy:

"If American companies were simply to double the number of engaged employees from one-third to two-thirds, spirited employees would reverse our seriously declining national productivity". This applies to every business with low engagement levels, and is a global problem, not localized to the US only.

Employees as Customers

All the characteristics of our customers in the "Age of the Customer" and how we need to cater to them can be applied to our employees. Here are some of the challenges, in no order of importance:

  • Expectations - these differ based on an age group, but are traditionally high. If what they get is not what you promised when you hired them, prepare for employees to leave.
  • Loyalty - previously employees stayed with a company because there were no other options, and hiring information was hard to come by. Now, with the right skills, your employees are in demand, and they know it. Also, no-one expects or wants to stay with a company for life any more.
  • Choice - if you don't offer an engaging and vibrant culture, there are other companies that do. This resonates strongly with Millennials.
  • Expertise - the culture of life-long learning, which you should be encouraging and supporting, results in employees who may know more about how to run a business in the twenty-first century than you. Appreciate and benefit from their skills, and encourage them to share their knowledge in the workplace
  • Multiple channels - new practices, such as BYOD and remote work, mean that you should get your message across via any channel that the employee chooses to use. This should also be a two-way conversation.
  • Democracy - the practice of working in teams has moved from IT and agile development to the business as a whole. The rigid hierarchy of an organogram and its top-down edicts does not work anymore. It is expected that employees have a voice, and that you listen.

Your Employee Engagement Strategy

If you are struggling with a disengaged workforce, there is a strategy to follow. You may have a clear vision and values that should make you a resilient company, but your current culture has eaten your strategy for breakfast. Here are some recommended steps that should get you back on track.

Support and Strengthen your Human Capital Capability

With the global focus on skill shortages, your HC practitioners are more important than ever before. They are responsible for the new organisational design that will foster an atmosphere of engagement and excitement. The HC portfolio is so broad these days that only the largest companies can have a full complement of experts onboard. Discuss and discover the gaps and find means to fill them, either via recruitment or outsourcing.

Design an Engaging Environment

Obviously, this is not as easy as it sounds, and covers many aspects of the business, especially:

  • Office premises and facilities. Even those who work remotely should be keen to come into the office when necessary.
  • Flexible working. Many employees, especially those with young families, are looking for work that integrates with their lifestyles and personal commitments. Also, if you are moving to a team culture, it is the team that makes the decision whether someone can work from home or needs to be on site. You will be able to monitor and manage performance anyway, if you implement your new strategy correctly.
  • Multi- or omnichannel communication. This is critical for your external customers, it must also be available for your employees.
  • Map the employee journey. You should be adept in mapping customer journeys by now - apply the same principles to your employees, starting from awareness, through recruitment and on-boarding to eventual exit (employees will leave, so make it a mutually pleasant experience).
  • Design a software architecture that supports employee engagement. This will help you to determine whether to buy a commercial package or opt for custom software.

Jim Clifton told you what is necessary, all you need to do is implement it. Read his foreword for some pragmatic ways to fix your corporate morale. He is addressing large companies, but there are some takeaways in there for smaller businesses, too.


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