Employee engagement is a very popular HR buzz term that has been around for a while now. Every HR professional and line manager I know has been inundated with the “how to” of engaging their employees. The only flaw in these company sponsored engagement programs, are just that . . . they are programs.
Individuals require individual approaches to their own job satisfaction, and must feel like their contributions mean something everyday. In talking to our top candidates, we have recognized two key items to avoid, and on the other hand, two key items to embrace in order to better fully engage and utilize your top people:
Two Things to Avoid
Annual Performance Reviews – It has been suggested by some HR professionals that the annual review may be a thing of the past in the next five to 10 years. For many this would be a welcome subtraction. Inherently, there is nothing wrong with an annual review. The problem arises when managers use these as the exclusive performance appraisal. What gets lost is the constant communication and feedback from your manager that is vital to maximizing potential. Without that, the annual review can be perceived as a hollow power play that has little affect on performance modification.
Door Closed Culture – I had a candidate recently that decided to resign her position based mostly on the fact that everyone around her worked inside closed offices, including her manager. She never quite felt like she could approach anybody, and some negative thoughts on that inevitably bubbled up. The easiest path for this person was to go find an office culture that was a better fit for her. This “door closed ” mentality trickles down from the top in any organization, and can be very destructive to open communication
Two Things to Embrace
Constant feedback and appraisal – This concept would replace what we know as the annual performance appraisal methodology. Simply put, to get the most out of your top performers, managers may want to really commit to processes that engage everyone in an organization, and honestly look at organizational development as a never-ending journey. A great resource to check out is Dr. Charles Martinez, PHD and his research on Appreciative Inquiry (AI). A full deployment of this type of strategy has proven to reduce conflict, and encourage across the board active communication and engagement.
Look for strengths and how to utilize them – Every year I receive multiple inquiries from potential candidates in July, just after many companies perform annual reviews. My “A” candidates out of this pack often complain that their review talked a lot about what they need to improve on, and very little about what they did well and how to expand upon that. Hall of Fame football coach Bill Walsh was said to be able to look at one single piece of video on a player and immediately be able to visualize how that player would fit into his system. Once the player was in his system, he sold out to that individual’s strengths and played on that to squeeze everything he could out of the player. Along the way, after his confidence was at a premium, they worked on necessary improvements to get to even the next level of production.
Very clearly, Bill Walsh is one of the best ever at what he did. Duplicating his effectiveness in a professional setting is a daunting task, but the idea of always looking to employ strengths is a proven model of building great teams. Every player then knows that they will be examined not by their deficiencies, but by their valuable assets. This creates an environment free and clear of paranoia and fear, and full of collaboration and celebration.
Your best players not only require recognition to stay engaged, but also the ability to achieve doing the things they are best at. It’s up to managers to put them in that position to succeed.
About Nate Elgert
Nate was born and raised in Lincoln, Neb., graduated from Lincoln East High School, and went on to The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) where he was a four year letter-winner on the men’s golf team earning a bachelor’s degree in communication in 1999. Nate took a winding road back to Lincoln that led through Phoenix, Des Moines, Chicago, back to Kansas City, and then finally Lincoln once again in 2005. Before coming to Aureus Group in 2006 as an account manager in the Lincoln Accounting and Finance office, Nate was a golf professional, an advertising rep, and a mortgage lender. Currently, Nate is a senior account manager. He enjoys playing basketball, golf, and time with his wife Angie, his daughter Sofia, 2. Nate and Angie are also expecting their second little girl in May.