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Employee Engagement Isn’t Rocket Science

Employee Engagement Isn’t Rocket Science

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It’s a fact of life: we all get frustrated at work. Even in your dream job, you will have a bad day here and there. My CEO had to remind me once that “[we] are all human beings.” We sometimes get so caught up in our roles in the company that we forget that small element. When it comes to employee engagement, could it be that simple?

When I was a Yahoo! employee from late 2000 to 2002, I bled purple and yellow. I didn’t just work at Yahoo!; it was a lifestyle for me. I found a workplace where I could be myself: I could have a life-sized cutout of Luke Skywalker in my cubicle, and no one would give it a second thought. My needs were met in my role as a Customer Care Tech for Yahoo! GeoCities (remember that service!?). I felt so proud to be part of a well-known brand with a bright future at the time.

Abraham Maslow was a brilliant American psychologist best known for developing the “Hierarchy of Needs.” In the hierarchy, there were five levels of needs: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualization. The workplace can foster all of these needs; however, belonging and esteem are two particular areas that affect employee engagement.

Belonging is a need that can be satisfied with a solid team environment; a company culture that is inviting, warm, friendly and supportive. The esteem need is the feeling of importance. Fostering an environment that encourages creativity and, in turn, rewards people for hard work and accomplishments satisfies this need.

For example, Kellogg’s Corporation operates weekly group “huddles” to communicate news, sales milestones and achievements openly to encourage community. Sue Platt, HR director at Kellogg’s stated: “Here at Kellogg’s listening is a central premise of the way we work.

We believe that our employees have some of the best ideas and that a successful company is one that listens to the grassroots feedback and acts on it. Any employee can raise an issue or a suggestion via their rep who will raise it at one of their monthly meetings.”

Let’s look at five things your company can do today to foster employee engagement.

1. Have A Common Vision

If you can get your employees to rally around your company’s “cause” or “mission,” you will have loyal followers. They need to believe in your product. The late Steve Jobs once said in the video “The First Macintosh” that “the greatest people are self-managing — they don’t need to be managed. What they need is a common vision, and that’s what leadership is — getting consensus around that common vision.”

2. Have A Strong Connection With Your Employees

This infographic from Dale Carnegie indicated that 84 percent of how employees feel about their organization is driven by their immediate manager. Recently, I wrote an article called “Five Ways to be a Useful Middle Manager.” In it, I encouraged managers to roll up their sleeves and not hide in an office. They need to model the way and truly care about their team.

3. Create A Family Atmosphere

case study from PGI indicated that 71 percent of Millennials (Generation Y) want their co-workers to be their second family. It’s all about a fun, social atmosphere. I recently completed my Master’s in Organizational Development. My culminating project was a retention study on an IT consulting firm in Silicon Valley. In it, a recurring theme among the people we interviewed was that the employees praised the family atmosphere of the consulting firm. It was like their home away from home.

4. It’s The “Little Things” – Appreciation

Research by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 79 percent of those who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as the main reason. It’s not all about pay raises. Peer recognition and, more importantly, manager recognition are large motivators that can keep the “esteem” need going.

5. Continuous Feedback

As much as we would like to praise people for what they are doing right, we also need to inform people when they are doing something wrong. Immediate and continuous feedback is critical. A Gallup survey of 1,003 US employees in 2009 found that 97 percent of employees weren’t engaged when they felt ignored by their managers. Managers need to make time for their employees; a simple 30 minute weekly check-in can do wonders!


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Jenny Hayes Rhoten Jenny Hayes Rhoten, MSOD, has over 15 years of experience in staffing, training and technology management. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Oklahoma and her Master of Science in Organization Development from the University of San Francisco. Jenny is currently the Senior Human Resources Manager at Astreya, a global IT staffing services firm based in Santa Clara, California.