Engaging Your Employees: Takeaways from Ultimate Software Connections 2016

Last week, we attended Ultimate Software’s Connections 2016 conference in Las Vegas. Now that I’ve recovered from Vegas, I’ve been reflecting on the message from this year’s theme of “Inspiring Engagement.” Particularly, I’ve been thinking about how crucial engagement is to our client’s businesses and the role the HCM industry plays in combating that challenge.

During his talk, Ultimate Software’s VP of Products Martin Hartshorne summed up why employee engagement matters: high engagement leads to increased profitability, productivity, and customer satisfaction. However, achieving a high level of engagement is a struggle for most organizations. A recent study by SHRM and Globoforce found employee engagement ranked just behind turnover as the biggest challenge to employers, with 39% of employers citing it as a top concern. Of course, the two go hand in hand — engaged employees will be less likely to leave.

My local grocery store is a shining example of how high employee engagement leads to greater customer satisfaction and increased profits. In addition to catering to my needs from a product point of view, my shopping experience is enhanced by the store’s passionate, helpful, and friendly staff. The employees act like owners rather than hourly staff waiting to run out the clock, and this superior level of service has made me extremely loyal to this store even though I have to drive a little out of my way to get there. It’s no wonder Publix earned a spot on Fortune’s Best Places to Work list for the 18th year in a row.

So how can you improve employee engagement? It starts with investing in a better employee experience. You’ll be on the path to high engagement when you offer a truly mutually-beneficial relationship between your employees and the company.

You can achieve this by applying some obvious but often overlooked management practices that contribute to a positive overall experience for employees, such as:

  • Leading by example
  • Treating your employees like team members
  • Eliminating distractions
  • Empowering employees to make decisions and then trusting them to make the right decisions
  • Facilitating self-growth and self-improvement

What’s a key indicator of disengagement? Your employees view their position as a job.

When they treat their position as a career, you know they’re invested, passionate, and dedicated to the overall objective. You’ll know this is the case when they start thinking beyond “what’s in it for me” and begin thinking in terms of what’s in it for the team and the company. They’ll be looking for ways they can grow with the company.

Employees are the parts that make up your operation’s engine. Their engagement, or commitment and passion for their role and your business, is the fuel that keep the engine running smoothly.

You can’t buy passion; it has to be nurtured. Fortunately, passion is a very contagious phenomenon when it starts from the top. Create the proverbial engagement snowball at the top of the hill — not the bottom — and let it roll downhill.