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Engaging the workforce

Issue 9 / July - Sep, 2012
Jul 09, 2012
Reading time: 8 minutes (887 words)
 

Many employers around the world today are still talking about retention, but the question is what kind of retention do they need and do they know what this means for them as Employers? Yes, we all want to retain the best talent, but do we need to retain all the best talent or just some? How do we know which talent to retain and which to let go? Perhaps, we need to talk another language…yes, engaging the workforce. If we address this first, then retention will come naturally. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) says, "employee engagement can be seen as a combination of commitment to the organization and its values and a willingness to help out colleagues (organizational citizenship). It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation". Many of us would have jumped to say, we need to ensure job satisfaction and motivation, but now we are told this is not enough.

Employers want engaged employees because they deliver improved business performance. CIPD research has repeatedly demonstrated the links between the way people are managed, employee attitudes and business performance.

I have worked with a number of organizations (in banking, manufacturing, mining, etc) and I can tell you it is not easy trying to engage employees especially if you do not talk to the employees themselves first to find out what it is that makes them "tick". Some organizations spend a lot of funds and other investments on their top talented employees only to find them moving out of their organizations to other employers. Why is this the case? Perhaps miss-match of what each other wants? CIPD goes on to say, "more and more organizations are looking for a win-win solution that meets their needs and those of their employees". Hence, for there to be a win-win situation, both parties need to let each other's desires be known upfront.

There was a recent HR Summit organized here in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by IRIS and one of the topics was on "Engaging the Workforce". This shows that it is a concern for not only CEOs but HR practitioners and the entire workforce as well. How then do we engage the workforce especially considering that we have many generations to consider? Below are just some well known facts.

The first way is to measure employee attitudes. This can be done using a survey to check in on employees - to measure how they feel today and where they see themselves next year and in the future. Employees should be able to feel like "they own the business" and hence can have a say in it. They should be able to see that they have a purpose and a stake in the business otherwise, why would they give it their all? And why should you as an employer expect more from them if you are also giving out the minimum? Yes, you pay the employees' salary but is that salary not in exchange for their time, skills, talents, etc? Some employees know what they want, for example, some want to be with an employer for a few years before moving on to other things, such as opening up their own businesses…and this is okay, but while they are with the employer, they need to give it their best in terms of all the skills, energy and ideas they have. Others want to be CEOs in the future and hence need to "stick out" through the years to be fully prepared for the top-most job.

The second way to drive for an engaged workforce is to build on good people management and development policies and have the active support of line managers, (CIPD Research). However, it is not enough to have good policies but not implement them. Line Managers need to be able to know their role in this. A book, "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How To Recognize The Subtle Signs and Act Before It's Too Late", by Leigh Branham says, the top most reason is poor management and goes on further to explain what this means. Another research by Azim Premji concludes, "people leave managers not companies", a finding that is also confirmed by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Hence, every line manager has a very crucial role and needs to own it.

"Organizations increasingly recognize the importance of their 'brand'. Engaged employees will help promote the brand and protect the employer from the risks associated with poor service levels or product quality. Similarly, a strong employer brand will help in attracting and retaining employees" (CIPD Research). So, it is simple, engage with your employees first and sit together to discuss the future together, there is no other way.

And if all you are thinking about is the costs involved in engaging your employees then you are not thinking of ways to engage your employees which will mean those same employees will not be able to bring in the revenues with calculated costs to ensure sustainable growth in the business. Today, it is not about thinking outside the box, rather it is about being able to take your whole self out of the box to see the endless possibilities that are there for you and your organization. Start engaging your workforce today!

Angela Kasamala-Mangecha (angie_crony@yahoo.com)

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