Learning Re-Imagined

Skillsoft Blog

Want to Close the Employee Engagement Gap? Offer Growth and Learning Opportunities

By Shawn Hunter

There’s an old adage that
goes like this: you take the job for the money, stay for the people, and leave
because of your boss
.  If we believe this is true, then it becomes
more about the quality of relationship, environment, and fulfilling
expectations (the job actually reflects the brochure), than managing precisely
what people do, how they do it, etc.

So why is it that organizations have such highly refined analytics about
when and how to interact with customers and prospects to maintain
the highest revenue uplift and retention rate
?  Companies
invest enormous sums to understand exactly when to place a deft customer
service phone call, or extend a sweetened interest rate, or include that ‘bonus
VIP’ service – all to raise customer retention and revenue.  We employ
neuroscience and psycho-graphic profiling to understand motivating factors in
buying behaviors (did you know grocery
stores use slow ambient music to seduce you into staying longer and buying
more?) – and yet, many companies still operate in a command-and-control fashion
with their people, treating them more as instruments.

In Closing the Engagement Gap,
by Julie Gebauer and Don Lowman, they argue that one of the keys (there are
five) to heightened engagement is to offer continuous learning and intellectual
development opportunities.  In one example, at EMC’s R&D facility in
China, the general manager understood that professional growth and camaraderie
were big motivating factors and created both formal and informal learning,
networking, and socializing activities.  Consider the inverse effect –
years ago EMC opened a technical facility in India and immediately
offshored/insourced the more rudimentary and mundane tasks that the U.S.
engineers didn’t want.  You can guess the Indian engineers were
frustrated, annoyed, and characteristically weren’t so inclined to give any
discretionary effort to their work.

And there’s the key – since everyone can exercise a discretionary choice
whether to be engaged or not, what are the factors that determine
employee engagement
?  According to Lowman and Gebauer’s Global
Workforce Study, these are the top five:

  1. Senior
    management’s sincere interest in employee well-being
  2. Opportunity
    an employee has to improve skills and capabilities
  3. Organization’s
    reputation for social responsibility
  4. Opportunity
    an employee has to provide input into decision-making in his department
  5. Organization’s
    ability to quickly resolve customer concerns

Right
there at the top – #1 and #2: strength of relationship with your boss, and
opportunity for intellectual and professional growth is what drives engagement,
innovation and yes, shareholder value.  And even if you’re not so hip on
driving shareholder wealth, it sure makes a fun and interesting place to work.


For more expert opinion on this topic, I invite you to view our QuickTalks leadership skills training video on aligning
top performers by Curt Coffman.  In his view, engagement of
employees starts with changing the mindset to embrace top performers in a way
which conveys that the company needs them more than they need the company.

Have
you started to think this way?  If, so how has it helped?  If not,
why?  I’d like to talk about it further in the comments.

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