Laurie Schultz is CEO of ACL Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based anti-fraud software provider.
Having engaged employees at work is a clear sign of a high-functioning organization. Employee engagement goes beyond workplace morale and culture. Rather, it refers to the level of personal investment an employee has in the growth and success of the company. When employees are engaged at work, they feel a greater connection to the company and an alignment with business goals and targets. How does a business achieve an office full of happy, engaged employees?
Never discount the power of the C-suite taking genuine interest in the career goals and advancement of their team. When employees feel that their career goals are communicated and valued at a senior level, they are less likely to seek outside employment, even pass over higher salaries, because their personal goals are valued within the company. Likewise, employees are willing to take a pay cut at another organization if they feel there is more room for growth there. It’s extremely important as a leader to understand the role that career advancement plays in boosting employee motivation.
Always reject the notion that the C-suite needs to be at arm’s length from employees to be effective leaders. Know your people and understand their hopes for their careers and the future of the business. That means digging in deep with employees to get the most from them. Embrace vulnerability and transparency with employees to build connections that both illuminate how they can be helped and how they can push the business forward at the same time. This can translate into 90-day learning goals, having a lunch-in to define their career path within the organization or even having a mentor describe the best route to take in order to climb the ladder. On a quarterly basis, ACL brings together 10-15 employees for a lunch town hall session to facilitate a chat about what is working for them and what isn’t. Having an open line of communication allows us to identify trends in what is creating barriers to their job satisfaction.
Every organization has individuals who champion the mission and vision of the company in a way that inspires those around them to do more. These are called change agents, which are defined as people who bring about organizational transformation through constant improvement and development.
At ACL, we’ve formalized this in a change agents program, which takes those people and supports them through direct career support from the chief executive and the executive team, additional cash for education, special project participation and high potential for promotion. I invest time in each change agent to ensure they get as much from me as we get from them.
There are many elements involved in an employee’s successful career path. They need competent, effective management and an environment where they have the tools and resources to succeed. Employees often model the behaviours of upper management, which is why it’s important to set the tone of the working relationship. Investing time in understanding the needs and wants of all levels of staff shows a commitment from management to ensuring employees are motivated and happy. This is a small gesture that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Twice a year, through an employee net promoter survey (eNPS), we ask employees about aspects of manager effectiveness, work environment and compensation, specifically the importance of their satisfaction with talent management and career development. As a company, we have a publicly communicated eNPS target that helps highlight areas where there are gaps between expectation and reality. Career growth can have a variety of definitions, from promotion to expansion of skills within your existing role. Be sure that if you’re going to ask the question, you’re willing to do something with the answers you get back. Create an action plan for how you are going to improve the areas of opportunity.
Employees are always evaluating the direction of their chosen career in such a competitive hiring market, and they’re prepared to leave if the current situation isn’t suited for them. Taking initiative to understand where your employees want to be and helping them get there will ensure that they receive the job they want instead of finding it somewhere else. Leaders play a key role in determining whether employees seek outside opportunities or continue to grow in their position and all it takes is a conversation.