On a good day in HR, employee engagement is tricky. Working with different individuals who have different passions, come from different backgrounds, and view work differently presents many challenges in keeping a workforce engaged. This becomes even more of a challenge when we throw in a diverse workforce. For me, the bottom line in employee engagement is getting employees to a point where they feel their work is valued and that they are respected. When employees feel valued and respected, they will be engaged. The great news is that this measure of engagement will work across a diverse workforce. This means that our problem is not what to measure, it is how do we get there. If we asked every member of our team to tell us what it means to them to be valued and respected, we would no doubt receive many different answers. These answers can be complicated by cultural, racial, gender, and even generational ideas of what being valued is and how they want to be shown respect.
In general, there are a few ways that employers can provide value and respect to their employees regardless of the level and type of diversity. The first is to capitalize on the inherent strengths of each employee. Instead of building a job for someone based on our own ideas, or that of senior management, work with each employee to identify his or her individual strengths and then build their job around that. If we start to look at individuals instead of an idea of what a job should look like, we will see the employees become more engaged and excel in their positions.
For example, if a project manager is supposed to do A, B, C, and D for her position and our strengths assessment shows that she is really strong in A & C, then let’s work on getting her doing A & C and find out who has strengths in B & D and focus their attention on those areas. This not only will raise engagement levels, but it should also increase productivity and efficiency. I know I can speak personally to the fact that I am much more confident and efficient when I am working on projects that are in my strengths zone. When I have to put up areas that I don’t feel as confident about and are outside that zone, I tend to procrastinate and flounder. We can help our staff and teams become more cohesive and engaged by recognizing strengths and aligning job responsibilities with those strengths instead of putting the focus on getting better in weaknesses. In a team of people, it would probably surprise us all to see that each area we need covered, someone has a strength in.
Another way we can engage our staff across a diverse workplace is to capitalize on each employee’s unique situation and talents. This may sound a lot like the first area, but it is in fact different. Embracing an employee’s unique situation and talents is not the same as strengths-based drivers. Instead, it is more about embracing who an employee is and what their passions are and leveraging those things in your business. This might include embracing a unique work schedule for a working mother or offering opportunities for your staff to learn about and celebrate another employee’s love and talent for a particular sport. There are countless ways we can learn about our employees and use their passions as a way to develop that employee and others.
For example, I am a bookworm. I am always reading at least one book. I quickly realized at LTC that many other employees shared this same passion so I pitched the idea of setting up a quarterly book club for the bookworms to read and discuss leadership and career development books to help us all grow! Of course, this is not for everyone in our organization but for the people who signed up, I believe this will be a great development and engagement tool. In almost every passion and talent we can find transferrable skills or passion areas in the workplace that we can tap into to help our staff succeed and feel valued and respected as not only an employee but as a whole person.
By focusing on building jobs around our employee’s areas of strength and embracing each employee’s unique situations, talents, and passions, we are creating an ideal environment for our employees to thrive. When employee’s feel that they are valued for who they are, what they love, and what they are good at, then they feel respected. When this combination comes together in this way, how could employees not be engaged? This will ultimately lead to them becoming the best brand ambassadors we could have and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how this translates to the bottom line for the company. Studies everywhere prove that!
-Nicole Parker, Employee Growth and Development Manager