Six Steps to Create an Engaging Work Environment

Do You Know How to Keep the Employees You Want?

If you are a Senior Executive at a major firm, a business owner, or the head of any organization with paid staff, you know exactly what I mean when I talk about “good employees”.   Those staff members that fall under this exalted classification are typically the people you trust to do what is expected of them.  They are dedicated to their work, motivated by accomplishment and proud to contribute to the company’s success.

What percentage of your employees could be called ‘good employees’?  Are all members of your team ‘good employees, is or is more like half your staff, or even less than half?  To determine how valuable a particular employee is to the firm, consider what it would take to replace that person. Evaluate the option to form an ROI: what return on investment would you derive following the financial and production loss during the replacement process? Does the long-term investment justify the effort? How can you be certain that every new employee you bring into your organization will be an asset and contribute to your bottom line?  Obviously, there are no guarantees, but you can develop strategies and practices that engage the right talent to meet your businesses’ growing needs.

During the past twenty years I have supported thousands of corporate executives to transition into a management career. In addition, I have worked with senior level management, CEO’s and business unit heads to reduce the loss of good employees by successfully assimilating and then retaining the high-contributing staff.  Often my work starts after the on-boarding process: once the new manager has completed the company’s orientation programs, met his or her new staff, and the new manager has ‘learned the ropes’—and perhaps a few things you would prefer they didn’t learn from others.

It is important to step back and be certain you have created an environment in which those processes will thrive and bring about the changes you want.   To be certain you are ready to implement new programs and initiatives, here are Six Steps to Create an Engaging Work Environment.

Step 1. Acknowledge That Staff is a Major Investment

Determining the need for a new employee is an important decision that has long-term implications for your firm.  You can estimate what it cost to locate a prospective employee for a position at your firm, as well as the actual cost of recruiting, placing and on-boarding.  Add to that the loss incurred due to lack of productivity while the position is unfilled, plus the time it will take the newly hired manager to be able to fully function in the new role.  This is an investment. Are you standing behind your investment? Do you have the processes in place to make certain that you receive full value?  Have you ever determined the ROI on a new hire?

The newly hired manager is also making a huge investment as well.  The individual’s income and family security is on the line, as is his or her career and reputation.  If relocation was involved, the entire family must go through cultural changes following uprooting from families and friends, leaving behind all that was comfortable, familiar and routine.   The affects of a new job, a new home, and a new work environment can be mentally draining as well as produce a physical strain from the process itself.

The reality is that good employees are constantly sought after by recruiters.  If you want a new staff member to willingly stay, you must do something to warrant the individual’s loyalty.  A few simple initiatives on your part can go a long way to keep the talent you need for business success.

Your new employees want to succeed.  It is your responsibility to stand behind your managers, provide the opportunity for them to grow, engage their initiative and build their enthusiasm while supporting their assimilation into the environment you created.

Step 2. Recognize That You May Not Want to Keep All New Hires

From my experience it appears that a new employee will determine if he or she is committed to the job within the first two months.  At that point they will have to make a decision to leave or to stay.  What would you recommend?  Leaving after only two months can be a real problem when seeking future employment: some may see it as a black mark on the resume.  The alternative is for the individual to reconcile to wait it out with the new company until they can legitimize another career move.  Lacking motivation and commitment, these are the new hires that are less innovated and not dedicated to their job:.  Employees who are simply not motivated, earning a pay check while waiting for the time to pass before safely seeking a new position with a new firm.

In the meantime,  you have an unproductive member of your team,  on your payroll, making decisions, and responsible for managing others.  In the role of manager, they are a role model.  Is this the type of manager and role model you want for your existing and future new employees?  Unfortunately, when a new manager falls into the de-motivated category, the firm’s loss increases significantly because formerly satisfied employees will become unhappy and seek work else where.  A department or division that was stable at one time will appear to fall apart under the tenure of the un-committed manager.

What do you do to remedy this situation?  You have options available to you that begin with the on-boarding and orientation stage.  Individual and group coaching, team building and realigning job responsibilities by investigating the expectations can uncover the problem to create a new level of job interest on the part of the new hire.  You can maintain your investment and develop an environment of mutual support and growth.

Step 3. Track How Your New Manager Begin Their New Job

Many of the new managers I’ve observed or coached through their first days in the new role experience similar situations..  The fact is that most professionals who were selected for promotion to manager were chosen because they were the most creative engineer, the scientist that consistently achieved results, a productive IT professional, or possibly the successful as a customer service, marketing or sales representative.  Unfortunately the technical expertise that made them successful in their functional role did not prepare them to assume the role of manager of others.

What are you doing to help them succeed?

A typical new manager will jump in the role quickly, often making a few effective and unique starts on the bumpy journey and at the same time hesitating or mimicking the poor practices of others. Instead of this ‘sink or swim’ approach that does little to guide or support your new manager, you can initiate practices that will help a new hire to develop the knowledge and skills to perform the new duties.  With a few simple initiatives from you, your new managers will learn to make the most effective decisions and to accept the new role as a leader.

Step 4. Prepare For the Survivors Syndrome

Has your company undergone recent downsizings or layoffs as a result of business change, mergers or acquisitions?  Selecting which talent stays and who will remain is a tricky business.  Quite often, as soon as the rumor of a downsizing breezes through your organization, your better workers will begin to seek positions elsewhere.

An often unrecognized cause for poor performance by those remaining after the downsizing has been completed is called ‘survivors syndrome’.  Many good managers will experience depression at the loss of former colleagues and begin to wonder why they were able to stay when someone they respected is now unemployed.

Depression is anger turned inward and is a key phase of the change cycle.  You can support your employees to work through this phase and seek a positive next step by initiating a few simple options.  Ignoring the situation may or may not work: are you prepared to lose the productivity of your remaining staff while you sit back and observe?  If you want to take action, create a win-win environment.

Step 5. Develop an Environment of Trust, Rapport and Empathy

What does trust, rapport and empathy have to do with successful management?  They represent the foundation, ethics, attitude and complexion of every individual I have ever met that meets our definition of a leader.  Your managers must be able to distribute the work as well as serve as a role model to your staff.  Leadership skills encourage innovative thinking, taking responsibility and accountability as well as developing the confidence to work as a contributing member of a team.

I was called in by a Fortune 100 firm to respond to the needs of new managers they described as having high leadership potential.  This team of new recruits was termed ‘fast trackers’ and scheduled to visit sites globally to learn how the different operations functioned.  The problem was that when the team visited a site, the managers at each location were eager to show them what was going right, and often hid the problems or mistakes.  The new leaders were unable to learn what was needed and lost a valuable opportunity to monitor the issue as well as contribute ideas to rectify problems.  The site managers, however, did not trust the team and were concerned that if they revealed problems, their performance review would be negatively impacted.

Do your employees come to you with a problem situation before it gets out of hand?  Do they detect problems early and reveal possible mistakes before they become major incidents?  The work environment you create must encourage staff to recognize and acknowledge potential problems immediately.  You can develop your staff’s trust in management and enable them to not only locate possible issues –but more importantly, to present a variety of options to solve the issue before it gets out of hand.   To reduce problems, low productivity and lack of initiative, you must create an environment of trust, rapport and empathy.

Remember, as each employee gains in competency, skill and knowledge, he or she becomes a more invigorated and committed member of your staff.

Step 6. Explore the Subject: ‘Why Do People Work?’

During every training session for nearly twenty years I have conducted some type of exercise or game to encourage members to tell me why they work and why they think others work.  The results are as revealing as they are phenomenal!

Once you are able to identify what motivates a person – what truly makes them want to come to work every day –and understand that you can satisfy both their need to grow and yours, you will be on the way to successfully building your business.   The talent you hire is your biggest resource.  You need to employ their creativity and build their dedication to form a relationship that is mutually beneficial and of lasting significance.

Physiologists have identified the true motivators behind any individuals need to grow and develop.  By understanding your employees and recognizing that each person is different, you will be able to create initiatives that acknowledge their values, interests and expectations.

If you want your employees to perform their work with the enthusiasm and dedication necessary to produce a quality outcome, you have to do your homework.