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July 31, 2013
Top 3 Ways to Engage Your Employees in an Uncertain Economy
By Frederic Portal, Ataway Director of Strategy and Alliance

In times of economic crisis, companies must often resort to cost-cutting measures. More often than not, this means reducing their best assets: the employees.

But staff reductions leave employees feeling disengaged. Recent studies have shown that employee engagement levels have dropped significantly since 2008. According to Gallup, more than two-thirds of American workers are "not engaged" or "disengaged" with  their workplaces due to the uncertainty of the economy over the past two years (Read: "State of the American Workplace").

This leads to a loss of creativity and innovation. In an uncertain environment, people who are unengaged aren't going to speak up about issues they encounter or bring in new ideas. As a result, productivity really suffers, impacting the bottom line.

So how do you get employees engaged in uncertain times? How do you optimize someone’s productivity during uncertain times?

Here are 3 ideas that have worked for other companies:

1. Focus on a Higher Purpose

Reminding employees of the company's mission helps them stay engaged. Your employee needs to understand what your purpose in life is, beyond making money. Make it simple so that people can identify with it. You can really motivate people around these little statements that are very meaningful.

“Would you rather work at a company focused solely on maximizing profits, or one with a deep commitment to adding real value to the world through its products, practices and services? Wouldn’t you find a greater sense of meaning by working for the latter, feel a greater sense of commitment and be less likely to leave?

For inspiration, look at large companies that have been able to successfully focus on a simple purpose statement:

  • • Ritz-Carlton "Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."
  • • Disney "To use our imagination to bring happiness to millions."
  • • DOT Foods “To positively and significantly contribute to the success of our business partners.”
  • • Allegis Group “Strive for Excellence thought Serving Others."
  • • Google “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful."
  • • Corning: "Deliver superior, long-range economic benefits to our customers, our shareholders, our employees and the communities in which we operate."
  • • Whole Foods: "Explicitly committed to helping people to eat well, as a way to improve the quality of their lives and increase their lifespan."

2. Launch Teambuilding Initiatives

A New York-based telecommunications firm, M5 Networks Inc. recently launched a year-long team growth program called "M5 Rock." The employees were divided into 10 cross-functional teams from different parts of the organization. In addition to competing teambuilding activities, the teams worked together on business issues such as developing new sales pitches and writing business plans for new products.

Being asked for feedback and seeing that their ideas were valued led employees to become more invested in their jobs. After the program's end, the CEO saw a 10-point increase on customer satisfaction surveys, as well as increases in employee satisfaction surveys.

3. Recognize and Reward Good Work

HometownQuotes, an online service that matches consumers with local insurance agents, launched an incentive rewards program called the Q Point program, which recognizes employees for doing things like maintaining high customer satisfaction.

Each week, employees nominated workers who clearly performed above and beyond their job description or exhibited out-of-the-box thinking.

When an employee received 10 points, he could turn them in for a paid half-day of vacation. When he earned 20 points, he could exchange them for a full day of paid vacation. Since launching the program, 13 of 24 HometownQuotes employees have earned at least a half-day off

Recognizing good work doesn't necessarily have to be part of a formal program, either. At PeopleSoft, employees are treated to weekly traditions, such as bagels and a Friday Social Beer. After the Oracle acquisition, some managers encouraged teams to bring "little extras" to the office, such as donuts on Fridays, like Bill T, or gift cards, like Diana G.

At Ataway we love helping our customers excel with their software implementations! We also like to remind ourselves that at the root of the name “PeopleSoft,” there are two very important words: People and Soft. During our implementations and upgrades, we always remember to help you in both areas. People are the most important assets an organization has on its balance sheets, and yet sometimes organizations forget about this.

Companies like Google and Apple do a lot for their employees, from personal development seminars, to yoga classes and excellent on-site restaurants. Google takes this a step further by giving employees a full day each week to work on their pet projects…yes, even during the financial crisis! These “passion projects” have led to the launch of amazing products, such as Google Ocean.

At Ataway, we believe that if you focus on the user everything else will follow! We design our offices and teams in a way that encourages interaction between employees within and across practices. We encourage our employees to spark conversation about work and play, as it creates an amazing dynamic that will boost morale, productivity and joie de vivre.

You do not need to wait for management to implement these informal traditions --  the ideas can came from bottom up. This can mean a single employee bringing in baked goods each week from home, or having employees from different departments assist with different projects. You will feel better, and people around you will too -- and that spark just might change the whole organization.

Here are three questions that all chief executives and employees should regularly ask themselves as a powerful way to build competitive advantage:

  • 1. What is our noblest purpose and are we fulfilling it?
  • 2. How can we give our employees a greater sense of meaning in what they do so that they feel more enthusiastic about coming to work every morning?
  • 3. In what practical ways can we add more value in the world (and do less harm)?

You can read an excellent article about this topic from the New York Times: "What It Takes to Fully Engage Your Employees."

Consult with Ataway’s Team of Experts today, and learn how we can provide Solutions for your business in Change Management

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