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It’s the People, People! 73

It never ceases to amaze me when I hear many c-suite executives talk about their talent. “It’s all about the people,” they may quip. “You have to get the most talented, motivated employees possible.”

But the response I hear from many of these ‘valued’ employees is that all they miss is an asset tag. The constant feedback is that an institutions physical assets are tracked that its human capital.

PeopleI posed to ask myself why this may be the case. It would suffice to say that it boils down to one word; Engagement. There is a massive disconnect between the company executives and the ‘rest of us’.

“Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup’s new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace.” A whooping 63% of employees are disengaged at work “…meaning they lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes. And 24% are ‘actively disengaged’, indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers. In rough numbers, this translates into 900 million not engaged and 340 million actively disengaged workers around the globe.”

Now, some may be surprised by these statistics. Others will dismissively indicate they do not apply to them. Yet, if they were adequately alert, they may discover that a good portion of the companies internet broadband is consumed by job searches initiated by the very employees they claim are not part of the statistics!

“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals,” says Kevin Kruse.

Three critical gears, I believe, drive the engine of engagement. These are Communication, Growth and Trust.

1. Communication

I once had a supervisor who would walk across the stretch that was our office space every morning. He would greet each and every employee by name. Once in a while, he would enquire after an employee’s family, often by also mentioning their children by name. Initially, this seemed intrusive. It felt like he was looking over our shoulders. In retrospect, it made a lot of sense. It was his way of connecting and communicating with his staff.

Physical interaction most often elicits two-way communication over time. It makes other forms of communication that much easier to navigate through. Even in cases where physical interaction is impossible due to geographical dispersion, use technology. Video calls are now a possibility. Used correctly, they foster a sense of ‘humanness’ as we can see each other.

Without communication, engagement is impossible. John C. Maxwell in his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect notes the following: “It’s not enough to work hard. It’s not enough to do a great job. To be successful, you need to learn how to really communicate with others. Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”

2. Growth

People thrive best in a culture of learning and advancing themselves. However, it is paramount to identify a common ground to connect with people. “To win in the marketplace… you must first win in the workplace. I’m obsessed with keeping employee engagement front and center,” says Doug Conant. Engagement takes place when the employee knows their desire to grow is appreciated and supported by the employer.

I came across these very telling statistics in a Forbes article by Kevin Kruse. Companies that have engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins according to Towers Perrin research. Another research by Kenexa indicates that engaged companies have five times higher shareholder returns over five years.

With growth, there needs to be a strategy in place that provides for recognition. Traditionally, this has been put of until the end-of-year bonus or evaluation. Why not think of other avenues to recognize the growth? It could be a letter of commendation presented at the weekly staff meeting or enrolling them into a self-development program.

But the most impactful of them all is working with employees as they support their families. There’s an old saying that, when you’re in the service industry, all your company’s assets leave the office every night to go home to be with their families. Making the workplace family-friendly is not just about having child-care facilities. It is allowing the employee to know that they will have the full support of the organization when family needs strike.

3. Trust

Trust is when employees have a deep-seated conviction that their intelligence will not be unfairly exploited.

Employees are more confident in their contribution when it is valued and utilized. Even when their thoughts may not be in line with the vision, it helps to look into it as a learning opportunity. What do I mean by this? How many times do we hear “That will not work?” during brainstorming sessions? What if the leader chose to respond thus: “That’s an interesting perspective. If our competitor looked at us in that light, how do you think they’ll use it to increase their footprint on our market share?”

Now, that is engaging the employee to think differently without putting them down. It increases their confidence in your leadership as they feel that they are part of the solution, not part of the problem. It helps them to think of the customer first. “Companies with high engagement scores have higher customer loyalty rates that are two times higher than those of companies with low engagement scores”.

Engagement is a partnership where both parties respect the sanctity of the other. It is a symbiotic relationship where everyone gains from the other.

Seth Godin gives us this sobering reminder, “If you treat your employees like mushrooms – keep them in the dark and regularly throw crap on them, it’s entirely likely you will get precisely the work you deserve in return.

And we are already paying heavily for our ignorance, aren’t we?

Kimunya Mugo

Guestpost by Kimunya Mugo – follow him on twitter @KimunyaMugo. Kimunya is a man with a burning passion for family, authentic leadership, communication and branding. He believes that leadership, communication and branding are so intricately connected, that without one, the other(s) cease to exist in their totality.

You can expect to engage with a seasoned communication specialist with direct experience in communication strategy, publishing, branding, social media, development communication, media relations, campaigns, photography and film-making for development. Helping people to become unmistakably authentic is what drives him. A parenting coach since 2007, together with his awesome wife, they have three children and live in Nairobi, Kenya.

(c) 2014 New To HR.

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Nicole Le Maire

Nicole Le Maire

Global People Advisor at New To HR
People are important, whether you like it or not. That is where I come in, it is my work and passion to improve your business, people and... bottom-line. My job is to help you and offer people insights in a transparent and understandable way. My diverse international (35+ countries) management and HR experience spans from start-ups to established organisations advising them through their stages of creation, growth, and stabilisation.

2 thoughts on “It’s the People, People!

  1. Communcation, Growth and Trust, wow, what a trifecta! This is a wonderfully written post Kimunya and extremely relevant to all HR staff, new and seasoned. The whole post is excellent and the communication piece truly spoke to me. As a marketing and communication director, I see the need to connect in so many ways, but yet, so many of us dismiss its importance. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise!

    • Thanks for your comment. It is interesting to see you and I are connected. I have just stepped down from my position as Director for Communication & Branding for an international NGO. Now running my own outfit bringing communication, branding and leadership together for individuals and institutions.

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