We caught up with Kevin Kruse, New York Times bestselling author of Employee Engagement 2.0 and founder and CEO of LEADx, to find out about improving employee engagement, boomerangs and why employers need to embrace the gig economy.
As an expert in engagement, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen organisations make?
There are two common mistakes. The first is to think that improving employee engagement comes down to perks and parties, foosball tables and employee of the month programs. Those might be nice, but there is no correlation between them and engagement. None of those things will keep top talent from taking a job with your competitor for a 10% raise.
“Perks, parties and foosball tables won’t keep top talent from taking a job with your competitor for a 10% raise.”
The second mistake is to treat engagement initiatives as a top-down program. Typically engagement results are analyzed at the C-level, but the only people who know how to “fix” engagement are the ones who filled out the survey. 70% of the variance in engagement is tied to who our boss is. So every single front-line manager needs to share the team’s scores with her followers, and ask them how they can spend time improving employee engagement.
There’s lot of talk at the moment about what the different generations want in the workplace. Does improving employee engagement mean something different to each generation?
In all the research I’ve been involved in, there are no correlations to different generations and ways to engage them. What we do see is that 20-30 year olds do value growth and career development more than older workers. But that’s not because of their generation, that’s because they are earlier in their career. The even better answer to this is that great leaders individualize how they lead their team members. It’s not about generations or gender, what country people come from or cultural stereotypes. We all want to grow, we all want to feel appreciated, we all want a brighter future. But leaders need to take the time to understand how each person wants to actualize these areas.
You lead Employee Engagement 2.0 with the Gallup statistic that only 34% of employees are engaged (2016). How can organisations improve this?
This is how you can improve engagement. It works 100% of the time. Administer a well-crafted engagement survey every 6-12 months. Give every people manager her own team’s scores, and how her score compares against the company averages and industry averages. Have every manager share the results with their teams and ask — in a grassroots way — what we can do to improve in our bottom two areas. Do those things. Repeat in another 6-12 months.
Recent research by Morgan McKinlay shows that almost three-quarters of millennials plan to leave their employer within five years. What can organisations do?
I think they can embrace it as the new reality. We’re already in and moving deeper into the gig economy…an on-demand workforce. It’s not all about engagement being low. It’s that the old ‘one employer for life’ model went away several decades ago. Companies don’t promise no layoffs and pensions, so why should talent promise they won’t leave for another company in five years? Once we accept the new reality, we can then retool our recruiting, onboarding, communication, and management practices to take advantage of it. If there are two things companies can do to try to keep their full-time talent longer, I’d say paint a bright, fun, inspiring future vision and make sure people are growing and being challenged all the time.
What can organisations can do to attract boomerangs (aka rehires) to their organisation?
The most important thing is to make sure everyone in the organisation has the right mindset about it. People who left aren’t traitors, they’re alumni who went in a different direction in their life. Maybe they thought the grass was greener and now know it isn’t. Maybe they went away and got new skills that they can bring back. Operationally I think HR departments should have an active, ongoing effort to remain in touch with potential boomerangs. Keep former employees informed of all the great stuff that is going on, and celebrate the return of boomerangs so others know they’ll be welcomed back with open arms.
What trends are companies investing in to improve employee engagement?
The employee survey is far from dead. Hopefully that 100-question survey is dead and buried, but asking 7-15 validated questions and acting on the results will never go out of fashion. And the frequency of your survey should be tied to the growth of your organization. If you’re a big sleepy company that has 10% turnover every year, an annual engagement survey probably makes sense. If you’re in growth mode with lots of change and lots of new employees joining up maybe a quarterly survey makes sense. And if you are growing your staff 100% a month you probably want to survey monthly or in “real-time”.
How do you keep up-to-date with the latest trends on employee engagement?
While the pace of change has accelerated, we also have many more ways to stay informed: blogs, e-newsletters, virtual summits, etc. Personally I check into LEADx.org every morning not just for the free course of the day, but to scan the articles from over 50 contributors who are all writing about leadership and engagement topics.
How Talivest can help
Talivest is an online platform that helps global companies tap into rich networks of their past and future talent. We help organisations understand why employees are leaving, stay connected with them and help re-hire high performing alumni as boomerangs. This results in reduced recruitment costs, boosted productivity, improved brand culture and a rich talent pool for referrals and boomerangs.