How irresistible is your workplace?

What would it take to make your workplace irresistible? A guaranteed annual pay rise? The ability for staff to flex their working hours at will? Free lunch for all? Unlimited paid vacation? According to management guru Josh Bersin, the answer probably isn’t any of the above (although some of them may help).

Writing in the Deloitte University journal, he suggests meaningful work, hands-on management, a positive environment and opportunities for growth are the things that are more likely to light employees eyes up. It all sounds fairly obvious, but the evidence suggests that many companies are still not getting it right.

In a Gallup poll, only 13% of employees described themselves as ‘highly engaged’, while 26% were ‘actively disengaged’. Meanwhile, figures from Glassdoor suggest that only 54% of employees would recommend their company as a place to work.

At a time when skills shortages are at a critical level and talent is at a premium, it’s no wonder this lack of engagement is keeping business leaders awake at night. A recent survey shows it’s one of the top three most pressing concerns for senior executives.

Bersin, who has recently published a new five-step model for employee engagement, suggests it’s time to step back and take a fresh look at what makes for an ‘irresistible’ place to work. These are the three key issues he believes companies need to address if they are to build high-performing cultures that will attract and retain talented employees:

1. Companies need to expand their thinking about what engagement means

There’s a lot of talk about employee engagement, but not quite so much action. While 90% of executives regard it as important, only 50% understand how to actually address it. Bersin suggests that organizations need to get much more specific about what engagement looks like for them and what managers need to do in practice, on a regular basis. This means making sure, for example, that managers have the skills to set clear goals, coach and develop their teams and manage performance in a positive and meaningful way. Recognising and rewarding managers who demonstrate these behaviours is also key to maintaining momentum and encouraging others to follow suit.

2. Companies need to rethink the way they capture employee feedback

The traditional annual employee survey just doesn’t cut the mustard in today’s connected, always-on working environment. Companies need to find new, on-going ways of ‘taking the temperature’ in the business. There are now plenty of tools available to help businesses collect and analyse this kind of data. Bersin suggests a ‘just-in-time’ approach will meet employees in-built desire to give feedback about what is pushing them up or pulling them down – and will allow managers to make rapid adjustments to working environments, processes or projects, rather than waiting for the results of the annual survey to come around, by which time much damage may have been done.

3. Companies need to make employee engagement integral to their business strategy

Employee engagement is typically seen as the ‘soft, fluffy stuff’ that sits within the remit of HR. But although HR undoubtedly has a key role to play in supporting the creation of engaging environments, the issue needs to be driven from the very top of the organization. Trust in leadership is one of the most important drivers of employee engagement. If the senior team are locked away in the boardroom and rarely communicate with the workforce, people will find it hard to feel a connection with the company’s mission and purpose. Senior leaders need to be visible, transparent, willing to listen and to talk about the future and the role individual employees have to play in it.

One action to take this week: Read more about Josh Bersin’s new model for employee engagement


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