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Employee engagement: how will we do it in 2010?

"Take care of the customer, take care of employees, and the bottom line will take care of itself," -- Enterprise Rent-A-Car V, Patrick Farrell

WORD definitely is that because of the recession, the employees you now have are going nowhere. So you better learn to love them. They intend to be with you 'til the bitter end, sticking closer than a brother, if you know what I mean.

And it is official too. Last Sunday the 'Sunday Finance Poll' asked persons if they were looking for a new job, 32.87 per cent of them said that they don't like their current job while 39.06 per cent said that they were happy where they are now. The overall sentiment was, "I think I will stay put", says employees.

For some of us, it might indeed be a long and loveless marriage, but a word to the wise, check the fine print of the pre-nuptial agreement before you decide to part ways with them. The truth is that if you have effective employees who are productive and add to your bottom line this is good news. You are glad to have them around. No one wants to lose a good employee. But what about if you find yourself stuck with the dead weight of staff members who really would wish to see you six feet under, and show it in their work or lack there of? They too have no intention of leaving the safety of a fixed salary to meet the monthly bills. After all, who does not like the comfort of legally supplied utilities? I know I do. In the meantime, how do you intend to engage all of them to keep your business profitable? How will you do it in 2010?

So, I did some digging and found an Employee Engagement Survey done by Buck Consultants, an ACS Company, in partnership with the IABC Research Foundation which includes responses from nearly 1,500 participants representing a broad industry and geographic base.

Surprisingly, the survey showed that, "while social media is perhaps the hot topic among communicators, it is not the solution to effective employee engagement. It does, however, provide a host of interesting tools to support engagement initiatives, and survey responses reflect that organisations are using such tools in growing numbers". One would have thought that social media, such as Facebook would be a good tool to help engage employees.

But on second thought, who would really want to be 'FaceBook friends' with their boss? To see the cheerful face of s/he who terrorizes who by day (and night) numbered among your legitimate online 'friends'. Reading your posts and having secret laughs at those that you never blocked from their news feed? When hell freezes over, is the chorus of resounding response I hear. So scratch, that for 2010, FB is definitely not the solution to engage the rest of us in the workplace. Although its usage might catch on, for now FB is the 'chill-ax' room where employees sneak off to chat, meet new friends and socialise. You definitely don't want to scroll down and see that your boss was reading your 'doings'.

The article reported though that company "alumni" pages have been popping up on Facebook, LinkedIn and other websites. It said that some of these pages are created by former employees, who want to stay networked with former co-workers and share job leads and other information. "The tone of the information exchange" on these pages "is generally positive". But other pages have been created by current or former employees who aren't the least bit engaged in their companies and may, in fact, have negative things to say about it.

The solutions that the Employee Engagement Survey say were being used to engage employees include: intranets, e-mail and face to face. But I found the idea of an employee annual report as a way of ensuing that your employees are educated about your business, understand their role in the organisation and are motivated. I am not here making a case for another 50-page book that will end up (yet to be read) on the scrap heap of paper. No, I am thinking more of an online publication. An employee annual report that would include short stories on individual or team successes.

Explaining the impact of these achievements on the business's bottom line helps connect an employee's everyday role to the company's ultimate success. Moreover, telling the story from the employee's perspective humanises the business.

Employees need to feel even more connected to the company they work for when a company is going through difficult times. An employee annual report can help pave the way toward renewed success, inspiring employees to push the envelope even further. I know much cynicism abounds in these rough times but a little pat on the shoulder can help. The article also suggests that, depending on the information it contains, the report might be used as a recruiting tool for prospective employees as well, giving them a glimpse into the company that no staffing brochure could provide. It can also be used as a marketing piece, giving potential partners and clients a peek inside the company. Think about it.


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