I admit it. I’m the last person on the planet to watch it, but I just began and am now hooked on Mad Men: Don Draper, the hierarchy of power in his advertising company, the horrific chauvinism, phenomenal costuming, and what’s with the chain smoking? The office runs on testosterone, cut-throat competition, bureaucracy, and bullying, all swallowed with bourbon on the rocks.
It astonishes me that this takes place just fifty years ago – a blink of chronological time but conceptually eons ago. The archaic employee-employer model and keeping employees in their place by intimidation creates a great drama but a miserable workplace. The tables have turned, and organizations find themselves struggling to keep their best employees.
There are some basic strategies to help organizations reduce turnover and retain great employees. Most of these employee engagement ideas and activities take time to implement and do well. We have got to go beyond the gold watch at the end of a 30-year tunnel to keep our employees engaged.
- Communication: Open communication is not a suggestion box that collects dust in the hallway; it is a place where true dialogue happens, where employees are heard, and where employees receive information about the company. Consider these strategies: a newsletter, reminders of the company’s values and what it stands for, sharing survey results and plans to implement change.
- On-Going Evaluations: Do not wait until the end of the year to celebrate your employees’ achievements, just as you cannot wait to share your concerns. Share the company’s values and goals with employees and keep them on the road to get there. Combine transparency with encouragement to make sure your employees know how their individual efforts are creating a better organization.
- Charity: Have your company support a charitable foundation or create a volunteer initiative among employees that is in tune with your company’s values. Money can buy happiness… When employees work together using skills and building leadership qualities, all while helping a good cause, this results in an incredibly positive environment. Really, it feels good to do nice things for others.
- Recreation: Have fun. Laugh. Create moments that your employees can share that don’t involve stressful board meetings, evaluations, and overtime. Have company sports teams; make contact with a local sporting goods store to lead employees in weekend hikes, kayaking, or other outdoor fun. Create education initiatives where employees can sign up for classes or discussions. Sometimes the smallest perks can make the biggest difference. Stay creative!
- Respect: It all boils down to respect. Companies with high employee engagement have demonstrated, time and again, their management and employees feel respect, fairness, trust, and shared values. None of these issues can be solved with quick-fix activities or programs. Increasing employee engagement requires a substantive change in how employees are treated.
So, with the exception of Mad Men, I would hope the days of bullying and arrogance, of archaic hierarchies and bureaucracies are long gone. Engagement is the cornerstone of an organization’s success. And, of course, no smoking allowed.