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Career & Education

Fun activities and prizes do not the engaged employee make

Launching Leaders

Sunday, August 12, 2018

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Despite many companies' efforts to create a so-called engaged workforce, surveys conducted in a variety of companies in Jamaica and overseas indicate that only 32 per cent of staff are actually actively engaged. But why is this the case?

Employee engagement refers to an employee's emotional attachment and commitment to an organisation, which manifests in high productivity levels and low employee turnover. The fact is that people work smarter, harder and safer, and stay with a company longer when they are working for managers, rather leaders, who have earned their respect and commitment.

Over the past decade, organisations have chased this concept by implementing various engagement programmes, creating new engagement coordinator positions, and funding engagement budgets. I have worked with companies that give away prizes on a daily basis, over-rewarding basic duties like attendance and completion of core deliverables and throwing elaborate multimillion-dollar parties, but they still have a revolving door, losing between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of their employees each year. Despite the flurry of engagement activities, employee's emotional attachment to the organisation have not improved. But why not?

The answer is that employee engagement is an outcome, not an activity, so fun activities and prizes won't do the trick. Throwing activities and cash at a problem is not likely to make it go away, any more than watching exercise DVDs and buying new spandex is likely to make you lose weight. (Trust me, I've tried it.) The first step towards improving engagement is to properly diagnose the root causes in the work environment. Time and time again, many root causes point back to gaps existing in the leadership fabric of the organisation. Leadership is the single most important lever and catalyst in improving employee engaging levels! This is the missing link!

Having administered several employee engagement surveys in a variety of companies in Jamaica and overseas, I have found that regardless of size and industry, the correlation is the same: High satisfaction levels with immediate supervisor = High employee retention = Higher productivity and profitability.

The truth is that companies would be better served to focus their attention and investment in ensuring that they foster an excellent leadership culture throughout all levels of the organisation rather than underwriting events, parties, giveaways, games and other gimmicks that frankly can come off as transparent ploys to buy employee loyalty. The average person would rather have a great boss looking out for them than prizes, trinkets, and parties. After all, people are motivated by people. People follow people. And yes, people quit people, not jobs!

So, if you hold a leadership position in your company, how can you ensure you are part of the solution and not part of the problem? We will explore the single most important thing you can do in our next issue.

Until next time, leaders, keep lookin' up!

Debra Fraser, MBA, is CEO of Caribbean HR Solutions and is a member of the Business Process Industry Association of Jmaica, Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica, and Society of Human Resources Management. Direct comments to dfraser@ caribbeanhrsolutions.com or www.caribbeanhrsolutions.com

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