10 Golden Rules of Workplace Engagement

Dr. Mark Huselid, assistant professor at the School of Management and Labour Relations at Rutgers University has looked at finding linkages between HRM systems, corporate strategy and company performance. Huselid identified ten HRM practices and then compared the results of the survey with publicity available financial, staff retention and productivity data on each company. Among the key HRM practices that were the basis of the study were:

1. Implement a formal information-sharing programme, such as a newsletter, regular information events, appraisal sessions, bulletin boards….

2. Senior management’s relationship to others: for example, when handling a big organisational change programme it’s essential to let staff know what’s happening.

3. A formal job analysis process that identifies core competencies needed for each position. What matters most is that the match between the person and the job is good.

4. Regular employee attitude surveys or appraisals. Quiz staff about workload etc in annual staff-attitudes. Run, for example, an intensive two-day physical and psychological assessment programme at least once a year for senior staff. All others must have an evaluation dialogue with their managers on a regular and not only annual basis.

5. Level of employee participation (quality circles etc)

6. Employee access to incentive plans and profit sharing

7. Formal performance appraisals

8. Jobs: designing jobs to create a stress-free working day is not possible but encouraging staff to make a realistic effort to cut back on working time is

9. Balance: in a client focused business get the balance between work and home life right

10. Training

How often do you communicate with your employees? Is it enough? Gallup found that highly engaged employees communicate with their managers face-to-face, electronically or by phone at least once a day. Out of the respondents who strongly agreed that they can approach their manager with any question, 54% were engaged. Having an open flow of communication is essential to any highly productive workplace, yet, it's one of the factors that managers struggle with the most.

There is no reason to neglect the importance of communication in any interpersonal relationship. No matter whether partnerships, friendships or business relationships, lack of communication that is meaningful can and ultimately will create problems.

You enter into some form of communication with every person you encounter, whether verbal or nonverbal. You even transmit messages if you ignore someone or remain silent.

The matter is not whether we communicate enough, or too little, but rather how rich the communication is and how much space we leave for interpretation or misinterpretation. At work however, people often have difficulties fully expressing themselves face-to-face, especially when it comes to expressing doubt, ambitions or feedback.

Create a culture of openness and honesty

When developing and maintaining a corporate culture, it is vital to keep communication as open and honest as possible. Employees that are encouraged to share their concerns and ideas openly enjoy a greater sense of purpose which results in lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction.

The higher the level of honesty the higher the likelihood of creating a strong relationship built on trust. When managers communicate more with their employees, especially about their ambitions, strengths and concerns, they're more likely to feel valued, resulting in higher levels of engagement. This strongly accounts for the interactions between managers and employees but also prominently between co-workers themselves. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, famously translates this into one of Zappos’ core values “Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication”.

“Open, honest communication is the best foundation for any relationship, but remember that at the end of the day it’s not what you say or what you do, but how you make people feel that matters the most. For someone to feel good about a relationship, they must know that the other person truly cares about them, both personally and professionally.”

- Tony Hsieh

Encourage external orientation and diversity of thoughts

By communicating openly and beyond corporate borders, organizations absorb external knowledge for their own benefit. People must be encouraged to take an outward look by themselves and as a team, talk about it and share. Make sure people are curious and eager to learn from others, both internally and externally. Embrace diversity in thoughts, experience and ideas. The more diverse the communication and the transfer of knowledge the more positive the impact on the individuals’ personal development and the more valuable to the whole organization. Managers should help break down barriers between departments and create channels of communication and knowledge-sharing. One way to do this is by creating peer to peer coaching and learning sessions.

Listen to your people and make sure they listen to each other

Listening is without doubt one of the most powerful communication skills. By attentively listening to your people’s ideas, concerns or personal feedback you establish a trustful relationship that allows them to feel appreciated and gives them a stronger sense of pride and responsibility. Make sure you act as a role model to your team and encourage them to actively listen to each other's ideas and feedback. Follow these four steps to create an active listening culture.

Share knowledge and information openly across teams and generations

Many companies face the challenge of retaining the knowledge and experience gained by older generations of workers. Ties between generations tend to get weaker and weaker but the importance of an intergenerational exchange has never been more important than before. Although we live within a society of information overload, the highly valuable information that is already internally available is barely shared.

One of the biggest barriers to inter-generational exchanges is the way in which they communicate. PWC found that 41% of millennials prefer to communicate electronically at work rather than face to face. Help your team overcome the generation gap by helping younger employees become comfortable exchanging feedback in person and teaching older generations how to use new workplace tools that streamline communication.

Knowledge sharing between colleagues, across teams, departments and generations can create an exceptionally powerful competitive advantage. Sterling Development can help you to stimulate a work culture of frequent and meaningful peer communication.

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