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Blog : Engaging the disengaged: HR management needs to start at home


Engaging the disengaged: HR management needs to start at home

Caroline White discusses employee engagement.

One of the reader questions in Personnel Today this week really concerned me. It was from an HR manager asking for advice on reinvigorating an inherited, disengaged team. This worried me because HR professionals should be adept on advising others on team motivation and performance, not falling at the first hurdle with their own teams.

I’m lucky to work for a company where learning and development is really valued so I’d expect that serious HR people would love their jobs and be well placed to grow to their full potential. It would make sense that the people who drive the ‘people stuff’ would do the right things, such as clarifying roles and responsibilities; articulating what a good job looks like; helping to ensure people have two-way communication; access to development opportunities and so forth. This opinion would be especially valid nowadays as we emerge from recession and organisations need to nurture and capitalise on employees as ‘their greatest assets’. Analysts such as Price WaterhouseCoopers concur with our own beliefs that in order to succeed, companies need to identify talent at all levels of the organisation, have effective leadership development programmes and keep employees engaged or risk losing them to competitors.

At the risk of hitting a controversial point here, unfortunately, the reality is sometimes rather different. Some HR specialists don’t appear to make the time to sort out their own departmental team dynamics, motivation, productivity and development. They lack a ‘voice’ within the organisational structure.

The Service Profit Chain was developed by researchers at Harvard University and has been a popular with academics since the eighties. It basically shows the linkages between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and financial performance. In light of my observations, I propose a new layer to the model. HR professionals need be satisfied in their role and operating at the top of their game before they can even think about helping the others!

So what can be done to ensure that your employees are happy, engaged, motivated, retained?

Firstly it’s about making time. HR has come a long way since 1911 and the days of Taylorism. Nowadays it has turned into a multi-million industry in its own right where each HR manager has to juggle with issues such as talent management, diversity and equality and more recently restructuring and change management. This can lead them to feel that they are constantly powering full steam ahead with little time to spend engaging with their team. However employees are a company’s most valuable asset and companies need to invest time and resource on assets to make sure that they are working at full capacity. A top department store wouldn’t skimp on redecorating its frontage so organisations shouldn’t skimp on their teams.

Making time might only be a ten-minute coffee chat but it makes all the difference. Use this time to find out more about your employees and any struggles they are having in their role. A study cited in the Harvard Business Review by Amabile and Kramer, suggested that when an employee receives managerial support to overcome barriers, their emotions are extremely positive and their desire to succeed is at its highest. Furthermore a study by Gallup suggested that the amount of on-the-job stress was the highest reason for job dissatisfaction by workers in the US. This could be eradicated by simply knowing a bit more about what makes the team ‘tick’.

Lack of communication is a common improvement highlighted by many service organisations. Larger organisations may have internal comms experts to help and the SMES may have to look to their leaders. A simple yet sound place to start would be with a workshop to work out how communication will become effective. More brains are better than one and ideas are more likely to be successful if it comes ’from the floor’.

Using technology is a great way of speeding up communication and stopping processes feeling like a chore. learnpurple’s fantastic talent management system, talent toolbox, integrates with other HR software and brings together and automates many aspects of the talent management process. Data only needs to be entered once and is easily accessible at the touch of a (passworded!) button.

It is also worth mentioning that learning and development doesn’t have to be expensive; job swaps, informal on-the-job training, projects, and internal mentoring schemes are all ways of increasing employee knowledge.

If you’d like any more ideas about motivating your employees, please contact sally@learnpurple.com

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