Engagement and Retention: "The Mystery" Solved

Posted by David Lee on January 4, 2018

Business Meeting

Try a keyword search on “employee retention statistics” or “employee engagement statistics” and find yourself inundated with a ton of data that all basically points to the fact that, guess what, this stuff is important. And, as you read those articles in greater detail, you can always find “tips” on what to do to drive these incredibly important measures. The connection many of us fail to make every day is that our professional lives are in reality very similar to our personal lives. Certainly, professional relationships are different in some ways than our personal relationships and have different boundaries due to employment law (see every article in 2017 related to celebrity or workplace harassment, ahem); however, our approaches to mastering both should be, to no surprise, quite similar.

What are some characteristics of engaging individuals in the workplace? Authenticity? Credibility? Ability to be forthright? Passionate? Charismatic and supportive? Hmm, do these sound like characteristics of people you would also prefer to surround yourself with in your personal life?

So the question we must then ask, and subsequently answer, is why don’t we think of things in these terms more often? Far too often we start with a question like “Who do I want to be as a Manager?” Perhaps the questions we should start with are “Who am I as a person? Or “What characteristics, traits, skills and competencies do I value in life?” We need to start with those qualities we hold/value and seek to surround ourselves with, and build from there.

These qualities or characteristics come in different forms. Some of them are natural to us. Some of them require hard work for us to gain/achieve or are simply not possible to acquire. Additionally, there are skills and competencies we have or must develop in order to perform in our daily lives, both personally and professionally. How do we develop these? How do we keep our focus in life to know where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there? How do we know what can realistically be learned vs. who we just are as individuals? Finally, I know what you’re thinking, “I thought we were talking engagement and retention here?”

So let’s tie it all together. We want to be around engaging people who treat us like we matter and who demonstrate care and compassion. We want to work for an engaging organization that values our input and contributions. We want to work in a position that excites us, allows us to grow our skills and competencies. Simultaneously, we are looking for the same thing in our personal lives/relationships. We seek opportunities to just be authentic because, in those moments, we are comfortable and we flourish. When we find these things…care, compassion, mutual respect, value, growth, excitement, etc., we tend not to let them go. We retain these relationships and environments.

Bringing this into a workplace discussion, we need to facilitate environments where culture and development are a focus. If we can foster the environment where we show care, compassion, mutual respect, value, growth and excitement, we will be engaging most of those who join our organizations, and retaining them for significantly longer periods of time. Keep in mind though, as stated earlier, authenticity is key. We can’t manufacture culture and care. It has to be genuine and it has to be “who we really are and are capable of being”.

So we need to ask ourselves the following questions?

  • Is our culture largely based on our values that we have defined and hold employees accountable for demonstrating? Does it feel authentic? Do we hire for and foster reinforcement of these values and characteristics?
  • Is our organization currently prepared for and/or investing in development, specifically doing so to develop the characteristics, skills and competencies employees are desiring?
  • Are we investing in this so our employees can become more valuable to themselves (i.e. selfless development) and our organization?
  • Are our employees becoming well-rounded, increasing their engagement, increasing their billable rates, and performing at higher levels?

We can develop out plans for our business that create the framework necessary to achieve our cultural, engagement and retention-based objectives. From a true HR perspective, engaging onboarding programs, career pathing, development plans, and learning plans are staples in your engagement and retention strategy. They are, simply put, “must haves” in order to show your employees you care about their growth and development. Of course, having the technology to back up your efforts can make a huge difference, and Deltek has made a commitment to help our clients become high performing organizations with our solutions. But, at the end of the day, the onus is on an organization’s leadership to build a culture that fosters a happy and healthy workplace.

In short, a plaque on the wall showcasing a company’s values is a nice sentiment, but without the actions to back it up, they are simply words. It matters most what we do, not what we say we do or what we say we want to do/be. No matter the size of the company, every employee should feel valued in their everyday tasks, and understand just how much they matter to the company’s mission and goals. As Dale Carnegie once said, “Throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.” While the “die for it” piece is a bit extreme professionally, if you largely believe in this sentiment, it is no different for your personal life. Let’s work to be authentic and find that balance where we can flourish personally and professionally. As employers, let’s foster that seamless transition from personal life to the workplace through creating a genuine, authentic environment, driving accountability to exemplify that culture. Let’s use technology when we can to help us facilitate that culture and drive growth and development. If we can do just that, your engagement and retention numbers are certain to soar!