The Basis of Employee Engagement: A Strong Company Culture

January 23, 2017 Andrew Larsen

What is the secret ingredient to generating employee engagement? This question has stumped HR since the beginning. Numerous consultants and experts claim that they have the answers, but the silver bullet to slay one of HR’s biggest concerns still remains a mystery.

A 2014 Gallup survey found that only around 34% of employees were actively engaged. Fast forward to December 2016 and Gallup’s new survey reveals that 34.3% of employees are actively engaged. It is remarkable that over the course of two years, employee engagement has remained relatively stagnant.
This begs a question: why are companies investing so much time and money into employee engagement ideas that are proving fruitless?

John Hollon, a nationally recognized expert on talent management and HR, suggests taking a laissez faire approach. In one of his articles, he concludes with, “Yes, it’s high time we gave up the ghost in this push to improve [employee engagement] and focus instead on building strong cultures and treating employees better. Get that right and you won’t need to worry about engagement, because engagement will take care of itself.”

If this is true, then exactly how will building a strong culture solve employee engagement? It begins with step one in the employee lifecycle, the hiring process.

Attracting the Right Talent
If a business has established principles of company culture, then HR, recruiters, hiring managers and all other parties involved in onboarding process, know the kind of employee that would make the best fit. For companies still developing their culture, establish a set of qualities that a future employee would need to succeed in your company, then don’t compromise on those traits. Search through every LinkedIn profile if you need to, because if you set realistic standards, then your ideal employee is somewhere out there.

The Onboarding Process
The next step to a good culture is improving the onboarding process. When an employee first enters the workplace, what is their experience like? Are they greeted by coworkers, did management take them out to lunch, how comfortable did they seem? First impressions carry a lot of weight. If an employee has a mediocre or negative first experience, then the odds of them having mediocre or negative days in the future increases.

Improving Management
A learning environment needs to be established in the workplace, especially with managers. How much HR interacts with everyday employees varies by company, but someone employees have regular contact with is their managers. Gallup mentions two strategies for developing better employee-manager relations. 

First, encourage managers to ask for help. HR is the department equipped with the knowledge of how to successfully engage employees. Finance or sales managers may not have the same expertise. For a variety of reasons, managers are often afraid to ask questions and learn how they can improve employee engagement. Foster a learning environment among managers and help them understand the impact that management has on engagement.

The second strategy is to provide real assistance to managers. This involves coaching, training, and support from HR. The principles of successful management are rarely naturally-occurring traits.

Foundations of Culture
Low employee engagement is caused by several factors, but one of the most influential is company culture. Strategies for improving employee engagement, like rewards and incentives, may not be the cure that businesses are seeking. Businesses could be losing resources and time on solving their engagement issues rather than developing company culture. With the right solution, HR can hold the keys to a successful foundation of which engagement is built upon. With focus on strengthening company culture by incorporating value-added hiring experience and developing better employee-manager relations, companies can naturally expect a significant improvement in employee engagement.


About the Author

Andrew Larsen

Andrew is the Marketing Communications Specialist for Zuman, the one solution for HR, payroll, and benefits administration that supports growing small to midsize businesses.

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