When I asked my circle why they had left their corporate roles, I was surprised by some of the answers. I had expected the “lack of flexible working” but there was another reason hiding amongst the varied responses.
It was communicated in various ways – not being able to use their strengths, feeling like a robot, faceless, and too many egos to name a few – but underneath them all lay a lack of recognition for the individual. In fact, you could argue that not providing flexible working opportunities where possible, is a failure to recognise individuals too.
I was struck by the similarities to my time in the copywriting world. Online marketing left a bitter taste in my mouth and I soon discovered that others felt the same too. Many were becoming jaded by the same formulas and shady techniques that were being used that put too much emphasis on “maximising sales” and not enough on the individuals on the receiving end. I gave people an alternative, teaching them to communicate and build relationships with people in their content and copy. My methods focused on understanding the individuals and sales came as a result of this.
It should have then come as little surprise that the same was needed for those in the corporate world.
Employee recognition and engagement
There’s no doubting the positive impact that employee engagement can have on a business. According to Gallup, “organizations that are the best in engaging their employees achieve earnings-per-share growth that is more than four times that of their competitors” (Harter, 2018) and Kornferry states that, “Our research among millions of employees worldwide shows that firms that score highest for engagement achieve 2.5 times the revenue growth of those that rate lowest” (2019).
However, in 2012, Deloitte found that “83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success” but that there was a disparity between what factors executives and employees identified as impacting workplace culture. Whereas executives identified elements such as “financial performance (65%) and competitive compensation (62%)”, employees pointed to, “candid communications (50%), [and] employee recognition (49%)” (Deloitte, 2012).
Employee recognition goes beyond pay, bonuses and perks. Instead, employees are looking for individual recognition. In their thought leadership piece, “The New Rules of Employee Engagement”, Kornferry discusses six megatrends, identified from their research, that “are fundamentally changing how we work, what we care about in the workplace, and what we need from our employers” (2019).
One of the megatrends they identified was “individualism”. Kornferry state that, “Money will no longer be the main influence on life and career decisions. Other priorities will come into play, such as fulfilment, meaning, self-development, recognition, and work-life balance.” (ibid). They make clear that if organisations want to prepare themselves for the future and improve employee engagement and experience, companies need to recognise and understand the individual. It’s no coincidence that many of their recommendations touch on the issues raised by those who told me why they’d left.
Communication and the future of employee engagement
How can organisations bring individualism into the workplace? Through open communication. Managers need to know their staff on an individual level. In the report, Tom Plug from KPN is quoted as saying, ““One-to-one dialogue is critical: it’s conversations between managers and their employees which allow us to start acting in a more personal way that’s appealing to them.”
I would go further. A culture needs to exist where conversations and communication are encouraged and promoted at all levels, where everyone feels heard, whether this is with their manager or amongst the team.
With open communication that shows understanding and empathy for the individual, employee engagement and employee experience can only improve and the benefits of this to organisations are undisputed.
I’m conducting my own research into employee recognition and workplace culture. If you are an employee, you can have your say by accessing the questionnaire here. Or, if you would like your company to be involved, then drop me a message to arrange a chat.
Deloitte, (2012), Core beliefs and culture Chairman’s survey findings [online]. Available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/gx-core-beliefs-and-culture.pdf (Accessed 7th February 2020)
Harter, J. (2018), ‘Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S.’, Gallup [online]. Available at: https://news.gallup.com/poll/241649/employee-engagement-rise.aspx (Accessed 7th February 2020)
Kornferry (2019), The New Rules of Employee Engagement [online]. Available at: https://dsqapj1lakrkc.cloudfront.net/media/sidebar_downloads/korn-ferry-listen-the-new-rules-of-employee-engagement.pdf (Accessed 7th February 2020)