Engage & Retain Your Performers

Thank you for watching our webinar: Engage & Retain Your Performers. My name is Lisa Brock, and I am one of the HR Business Partners for Tandem HR. I will be leading you through today’s session. Let’s get started.

Decrease in productivity, dissatisfied customers, profits are down, more safety incidents, high staff turnover. What is happening when an organization is seeing these types of issues trending? Well, the organization is most likely not keeping their performers engaged. In this presentation, I will talk about what engagement is, how it impacts business, and how you can engage your workforce to turn these issues around. Leaders cannot provide engagement unless they have a true understanding of what employee engagement is. So, let’s look at how employee engagement can be defined. Employee engagement can be defined as the extent to which people are emotionally and intellectually committed to the organization. Basically, we talk about the head and the heart here. Some people think of employee engagement as whether or not a person just likes their job. However, there’s an emotional aspect about their job that really needs to be fulfilled as well. This means not only do they enjoy and believe in what they do, but they also need to feel valued for doing it. If they feel valued, engaged employees will put the effort and passion into their work to achieve those top results that the organization is looking for. So, think about a past or maybe a current role that you had. What kept you satisfied with your job? What kept you engaged? Did you feel valued and appreciated for your contributions? Think about your answers and I’ll discuss this further in a bit.

Organizations across the globe, they want to boost your employee engagement, due to the studies showing the connection between business success and high employee engagement. Studies have found that teams with highly engaged employees have greater profitability versus the billions of dollars disengaged employees cost companies. So, think about that. The amount of dollars lost due to not having engaged employees – it’s huge! It’s so important to have employees that are engaged. Also, we know that having disengaged employees leads to high turnover cost. One area that is often overlooked that is affected by engagement is safety. A perfect example of this comes from the SHRM foundation study on an employee engagement that they did at Molson Coolers. The study concluded that employees that were engaged were five times less likely than the non-engaged employees to have a safety incident. And they were seven times less likely to have a loss time safety incident. Once the Molson Coolers worked to turn employee engagement around, they saved almost two million dollars in safety costs with the reduction of safety incidents and lost time injury. So, when it comes to safety and risk, there is a tremendous value for organizations to be committed to employee engagement. You know, no matter in which industry a business is in, they need their clients or customers to be satisfied with either their product, their service, or care. Having customer satisfaction and client relationship scores are higher with engaged employees. All of these examples are proof on how engagement really does have an impact on organizations and teams.

This visual of the boat is a great way to show what engagement looks like. As you can see, all the employees are in the same boat, but at different levels of engagement. You see the people in blue in the front of the boat. The employees who are actively engaged represent the blue rowers moving progress forward with commitment, high productivity, and innovation – and loyalty! The ones in the middle of the boat, the orange, these represent the disengaged employees and they’re just along for the ride. They’re really trying not to advance the organization’s goals and mission. They’re just on the boat moving along. And then, the people at the back of the boat – the red, this represents employees jumping off the boat or you may even have some that are actually trying to sink it. So, if you do have employees with very toxic attitudes or behaviors, it’s important that this is handled right away because this can cause more of your engaged employees to actually jump off the boat or become disengaged. To improve this employee engagement, you’ll need to know what areas of your organization is doing well and what areas of your organization needs improvement. One way to finding this out is through the employee engagement surveys. These surveys really help provide this deeper dive into how employees are actually feeling. It’s important that the right items are captured in this survey. If you’ve never conducted an engagement survey in your organization before, you can definitely reach out to your HR Business Partner, and they can assist you with this task. Tandem HR has really great tools, resources, and experience with providing these to our clients. I really like this quote by Simon Sinek: “Customers or clients will never love your company until the employees do first.” So, your employees really represent your business. If they believe in the organization’s mission, then your clients and customers will too.

Now that you understand how engagement effects your bottom line, let’s drill down a little bit on understanding emotional engagement. So, what does emotional engagement feel like? Full engagement requires both the head and the heart. We discussed that in a few slides before. Employees really need to feel committed, valued, and a connection to not only the work that they do or tasks they do on a daily basis, but actually the organization as a whole. So, when you think about it and you think about your team or maybe some of your employees, do these employees feel like their voices are heard or are their suggestions are utilized? When employees bring solutions to problems to you, are those ideas utilized or looked into? If they are consistently pushed aside, employees will just stop bringing ideas and they will no longer be committed. You know, you can kind of think of it as a one-sided relationship. Eventually, that relationship will be no more. So, these three areas of committed, valued and connection, all of these impact employee engagement. Make sure to have some conversations with your employees on how they’re feeling and how they are thinking about their performance at work. These daily interactions and conversations are very important.


Leaders of organizations have a huge impact on employee engagement. For example, one study found a 35% differential with trust in their leadership between employees who wanted to stay versus those who wanted to leave the organization. That’s a big gap! And 30% of leaders report to only occasionally think about actual engagement. And some, not even at all, with only 26% saying that they think about it every day. So, when we look at those numbers, we realize that in most organizations, leaders aren’t really thinking about engagement. They’re more looking at their day-to-day and maybe they’re looking at where they’re sitting with profits, productivity, how their organization is doing as a whole. Processes are very important to leaders at this time. But, sometimes with that, the employee engagement side falls and is not as important. Leaders who stay connected with their employees and are committed to engagement daily, they do have less turnover in their departments and those employees have actually more trust in their leaders and have higher productivity. In a study conducted, 60% of employees actually believe that the company wide employee engagement strategy didn’t even exist. They didn’t see it on a daily basis. Actions didn’t really go with the words. Leaders just don’t have that in the forefront of their minds due to the other daily tasks that they have to do. We’ve heard the saying that employees don’t leave bad jobs, only bad leaders. Employees assume that the leaders don’t care about them, and most leaders are actually surprised that the employees feel this way. So, when in reality, leaders actually do care, but they just need help turning in those good intentions into actions that increase engagement and ultimately, retention. We know that high turnover is an early symptom of disengaged employees. As a leader, you engage people every day. But that’s not all that you are doing. This graphic shows us how employee engagement and employee retention are really related. You can see by the overlapping circles that this kind of indicates that what you do as a leader to engaged people actually helps to retain them as well. They go hand and hand. In a study done, it was shown that 81% of highly engaged employees are likely to stay with their company as opposed to 23% of those who are actually disengaged. Retention is huge. So that’s why we’re focusing on both engagement and retention today. They go hand in hand. Most leaders are already making an effort to engage and retain their team members. So, this session will really help to become more deliberate and consistent about it.

Let’s talk about providing engagement and what leaders can do to actually engage their employees. So, there’s going to be four areas on how leaders can really provide that engagement. One area would be providing engagement by those daily engagement on those interactions or conversations. The other would be to understand and drive factors that motivate engagement and retention. We’ll talk a little more about what those are. And then we’ll review things that leaders can ensure that they are doing when it comes to recognizing and rewarding their employees often. And then the other aspect that leaders can do would be having those engagement and retention discussions. You know, these discussions are a very proactive approach to keeping and retaining your employees as well as having discussions on how they’re feeling about their workload, how they are feeling about their job, how they’re feeling about their organization. Being proactive is another way as a leader to show that you generally care about the employee and that you as a leader are doing everything that you can to keep them engaged.


Let’s first start with the daily engagers. These are interactions that are very valuable and cost the organization nothing. So, these are great to start off with. Things that leaders can really do is basically showing that they are paying attention to people and that they matter by using their name, for example, and asking genuine questions. Direct leaders obviously know their employee’s name, but other leadership within the organization, it’s important that they get to know other employees’ names as well when they’re walking through. Or just having day-to-day conversations. So, for example, if you’re having a conversation say in the lunchroom or getting coffee and a person or employee talks about an upcoming daughter’s birthday party, well, the next time that you see them, you would say something like, “How was your daughter’s birthday party over the weekend?” This shows the employee that you care, and you remember the things that they told you in past conversations. Make sure to ask for their ideas and compliment them in a specific instance that comes your way. Giving those specific details when you give compliments or when you show recognition is a very important part of being sincere. So, instead of saying the overall, “Hey you did a great job on that report,” you can be more specific on what they did exactly that was so great. So, for example, in a conversation you could say, “The board really liked the visual graphs you provided in the report. Great job!” This not only shows being specific to boost the employee’s confidence, but now they know exactly what they did right. This will really enforce this positive part of their job and their task, and this will provide them some more direction in the future for them to repeat it. When we talk about being sincere, we want to make sure that we show empathy as well and we make eye contact, and we smile. Sometimes we have a lot on our mind, and we forget those daily facial interactions where we just smile, say people’s name, and say hello. So, make sure if you hop on an elevator with an employee you look up from your electronics and you talk to them and smile. When you put your electronic devices away, you’re giving them your full attention, and this makes people think that you care. Here, also, when we also talk about accountability, you want to make sure if mistakes are made, you take accountability. When you do that, employees will respect and trust you as a leader. They’ll see you as a human being and not just a leader too. Most employees want to contribute solutions to problems, so let them! As a leader, you will not and should not have all the answers. So, make sure to ask how you can support them to understand where employees are at and if they truly need your support. Taking a little time and putting in this effort will have a significant impact on employee engagement. The last thing as a reminder is also respecting other people’s time and effort. So, when you have meetings setup, especially in our virtual world now, make sure that we’re on time for those meetings because we expect our employees to also be on time for meetings as everyone’s time is important and we only have so many hours in a day to get our work done. Do the best you can to always respect those time and efforts. Ask if you’re popping in or if you have a question, is this a good time? This shows a lot of respect and letting people know that their time is valuable, not just yours as a leader.

Beyond those daily engagement interactions with employees, leaders can also provide more. We talked about the appreciation side but also growth is important. Most employees get stagnant with doing the same task repeatedly day-in-and-day-out. It’s important to ask employees how they feel about their task and what areas they would like to grow in. When you have these conversations, it really perks the employees up and makes them think of the future and longevity within the organization. The more skills that your employees require, the more value they can provide to the organization. Plan to collaborate on some development plans that include growth beyond the person’s current job. Everybody wants to feel valued at some point. Being able to provide that within their growth and they feel valuable to the organization and their contributions that they can do, really keeps people motivated and going. Individuals naturally want to have a purpose with their work. They like the work that they do. They want to understand what their work is contributing to in the better scale of things. So, seek to understand how they are feeling about their current role and how their current role is connected to the organization’s mission. So, not just you have to do this task but why it’s important to do this task. Why it’s important that you stay, and you stay committed in doing these things and why your role is important to the overall mission. When you need to adjust work assignments when maybe priorities shift or you’re providing maybe a new project to an employee, adjusting these work assignments is a really great example of showing individuals that you are committed to keeping them engaged and you support them in doing so. You’re not just stacking things on top of each other and expecting them to go out and take on the world here, but you’re really showing that you support their new growth and taking up new opportunities. One of the great aspects of a top place to work is the positive work culture and leaders can really foster that through respect, diversity, and collaboration. Make sure that, if you’re having an issue with some negative aspects in the environment, negative aspects within the team, you’re really holding employees accountable for maybe their poor behavior, if any, or if they’re having poor performance. What this does is, it builds trust with your good performers. They see that, “Hey! My leader will ensure that these employees do not encourage a toxic work environment.” It’s important to make sure you’re consistent and fair with your communication and actions based on your organizations policies and values.

So, how else can leaders engage their employees? Well, sometimes we find that leaders end up spending way too much time and effort on those poor performers instead of spending more time with their high performers. So, this is again where we talk about holding those poor performers accountable and maybe they’re not the right fit for your organization. If that’s the case, it might be time to look at other options for those employees and make sure you’re getting in the right people. When you spend a little more time with your high performers, you will continue to keep them. And in one way to do that is through recognition and it has a huge impact on employee engagement. Earlier I talked about being specific when giving praise. Same thing here. This very important part of any type of recognition or rewards that you give, it’s very important to be specific. When talking about what they did that was great, what they did so well within their job or their task. Within those details, they go the extra mile, not only for individuals, but they also feel with their leaders that their leaders actually care about them in a genuine way, and they see those contributions. The other aspect of recognition is making sure to be timely. When you’re timely with recognition, this reinforces what they did right and so that employee will continue to keep doing the right things. That will not only keep the individual charged, but down the right path. The employees will most likely keep doing those right things, but we want to make sure that the recognition is within the right time frame. So, if the work that they accomplish is not recognized, say, until six months later, do you really think the employee will feel valued or less valued and appreciated? And the answer is yes! If they’re not recognized until six months after the accomplishment, they will feel less appreciated. When we look at recognition, you can give it in different ways. It’s important to recognize and reward people in ways that are personally meaningful to them. Everybody is different. Everybody has likes and dislikes. Everybody is an individual and has different ways of thinking. So, for example, you may have some people that liked to be recognized in front of their peers or in front of the organization. You may have other employees that don’t. They don’t like to be recognized in front of others. This may actually, if they’re shy, they may be embarrassed by it and not handle it very well. Although everyone likes to be recognized and rewarded, it’s important to understand how they like to be recognized and rewarded and make sure that you know that. If you don’t know your employees very well yet, maybe you’re a new leader and you haven’t gotten to know them, or you’re just not sure, just make sure to have those conversations. Ask the team how they like to be recognized. And not only will they appreciate you for asking but will appreciate your effort in actually providing rewards and recognition to them. This is yet another example of showing employees that their leaders care about their engagement, and these are actions, not just words. So, remember, keys to recognizing is to be specific, acknowledge how results were achieved, make sure that they’re timely, avoid vague phrases such as ‘good job’ or ‘thanks.’ These are some keys to making sure that the recognition that you’re providing is valuable to your employees and will go the long distance.

Other ways that leaders can engage their employees is through discussion. So again, this is free. This doesn’t cost the organization anything when we talk about ways to provide engagement. For example, when a leader is scheduling meetings with individuals, make sure to really take time to come up with questions to understand how your employees are feeling about their engagement. Asking them questions such as, “What matters most to you at work?” Again, every employee has a different understanding or different emotions and likes and dislikes. It’s important to seek to understand what do they like? This positive approach is a great step in keeping the employee not only accountable for their engagement but also thinking about it. It’s not only the leader’s responsibility to keep the employees engaged but it’s also the employee’s responsibility as well. They have to understand what keeps themselves engaged. When individuals can evaluate where they stand, they can then provide you as the leader with that information. When you go to have these conversations, sometimes employees may not have the answer to your questions right away and they may need more time to answer, and that’s okay! Just tell them that they can think about it, and they can always bring their answers to the next meeting. Here you’re really trying to get those clarifying questions. Ask one or two. It doesn’t have to be too extensive. And really listen to identify what matters most to that individual. What makes them satisfied with their job? Make sure you keep that in mind when you’re talking through other things with the employees.

The last item we’ll review on how leaders can provide engagement is with retention communications. So, these types of conversations really most likely go similar to this. Sally Smith turned in her resignation. Well, at this point when Sally Smith turned in her resignation, she’s a high performer. The organization tries to rush around and keep her by maybe offering her more money or maybe they decide to give her a promotion. However, by then, she has already made the decision that she’s not valued and appreciated, and a better opportunity is now available. By this time, it’s a little too late. So, having more proactive conversations on how you can keep your top performers will keep the employee’s resignations out of your hands. This is important, especially with the top performers and all of the knowledge that they will walk out with from your organization that is really hard to replace. So, as a leader, it’s important to keep those top performers and keep them engaged and what we can do to make them happy. What you could do within the discussion is first prioritize who are some of the people that you identify as your top performers that you want to have those conversations with first and why? What is the risk of them leaving and what can happen? Then initiate a formal discussion and that’s where you’re going to ask again, what matters most to this person and their job satisfaction and overall long-term career goals. So, if you don’t want your top performers to leave, this is where we ask them what you can do to keep them. What are their career goals and how the organization can really help them get there. Ask them how they feel about their current tasks and their current environment. And this may be a good fact-finding session for you where before you didn’t realize that maybe your department or team was having a few toxic individuals. There were some things happening that you weren’t aware of. And you may unravel some additional information as a leader to help make those changes and to turn some things around within your team to make it better. Again, this goes back to actions and less about just words, so when employees see this proactive behavior they really appreciate and see commitment from their leaders to really make sure that their team is fully engaged and they really support and foster that engaged environment. We know based on surveys conducted that monetary rewards does not equal engaged employees and loyalty. But some of these other actions that we’ve discussed really do. So again, some examples of questions that you can ask is, how do you feel about your current projects? Or maybe you ask what part of your role is most satisfying to you. And lastly, another great question to ask is, what we can do to keep you within the organization. Again, having those proactive questions asked and having these conversations is wonderful and you’ll definitely see the difference with less people handing in their resignations.

Let’s review what we’ve learned today. We’ve defined employee engagement and the impact on the organizations. We saw the numbers. We recognized the amount of turnover that happens and the impact on retention. We also know, based on the impact on organizations that disengaged employees cause more safety issues and incidents. You’re also going to have less productivity, less profitability, and ultimately, obviously here, you know that the customer and client scores are going to be less, and people are going to be less happy with your organization and what it provides. Back to that original quote by Simon Sinek, if your employees are happy and they really love their company, it’s going to show with your clients and customer relationships. We also discussed what engagement looks and feels like and how to understand it more in depth. So here was the boat analogy where we talked about different variations of everybody being in the same boat but everyone’s on a different level in engagement. And if you want to know where you’re sitting at as far as those ratios are concerned, the best way in doing that is providing those engagement surveys. So, you can really see your organization, how many roars do you have that are rowing forward and keeping your organization moving progressively forward. Or how many people do you have that are more stagnant and more along for the ride than anything but not really providing as much value as your forward rowers. And then also worrying about those people that are actively trying to sink your boat where you need to dig those out and make sure you replace them with workers that are committed and create a positive environment for the team members and better performance. If you haven’t had those engagement surveys before, remember to let your HR business partner know and they would definitely be happy to work with you on providing those engagement surveys. I also went over what leaders can do to provide engagement in the work area and their impact on the team engagement. So here we really talked about those everyday engagers as far as when you walk through your area or you’re in the middle of having a lunch with the team or a training session. Those interactions and those daily conversations are remembered and even if it’s small talk, you having those conversations goes a long way with employees and remembering those details, so when you go back to talk to that employee again, you bring out those details that you remember. If you’re not one that can remember sometimes those details, which some of us have strengths and weaknesses with that, go back after that initial conversation and maybe write it down. Write down that you had a conversation with Sally Smith that day about something upcoming and that she had her daughter’s birthday coming. You can always, the following week, go back and say, “Hey Sally! How did that party turn out?” And that will go a long way with the team and that really genuinely shows that you care about the employees and their wellbeing. Another thing as a leader you can do is making sure that you are having undivided attention and you’re really making sure that when you’re scheduling meetings, you’re not running late and you’re respecting everybody’s time. And then we talked about the importance of recognition and the factors involved with recognition. You want to be specific with recognition and rewards. You want to make sure that they’re timely. And what the impact on those two things regarding recognition can be. And the last part of recognition is finding out how people want to be recognized because we know everybody’s a little bit different and like I said before, you may have some shy employees who may not want to be publicly recognized. They may have other ideas. So, make sure to ask those questions. And the engagement and retention discussions. Having those proactive conversations will go far with individuals again showing them the commitment that you as the leader has towards keeping them engaged and supporting them with their growth, with their work, fostering a positive work environment and supporting them in doing so. So, when we as a leader are providing all of these elements for engagement, not only will your employees succeed, but you as a leader will succeed too and not only is that a win for you but it’s a win for the organization. All of these items that we’ve discussed today are very practical and easy to do. I will say the hardest part is actually making the initial change to be committed to doing these things. It’s those behaviors that we’re used to and sometimes it’s hard to change behaviors. So, you can start small. You can start with putting those items maybe on your calendar. Start with putting items on your calendar for recognition or rewards. You can put in meetings to have as far as those retention conversations or engagement conversations on your calendar. That will be very helpful in changing that behavior for you. And then you can also make those a daily list of when you go and leave your office or leave your area, who do you want to see and talk to in your department. What are things you can talk to about people and just using their name and having those daily interaction conversations by the water cooler or in the lunchroom getting coffee and making a real point using those daily check lists or daily lists to go out and interact with your team members in your department to change those behaviors on those everyday engagers that you can do. When you do all of these things, whether some more than others regardless, you will see a positive improvement when it comes to employee engagement in your organization just by doing some of these things and it will go a long way.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this session. I really hope the resources I provided you today will help in your organization’s engagement goals. Don’t forget that we are always here as a resource for you and if you need help with those engagement surveys or would like to conduct one, you can reach out to your HR business partner for assistance with that and I hope you have a wonderful day and thank you again.


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