FocusED 2018 | Issue 1 - By Mark Heymann, CEO, UniFocus - Engagement has become the key measure of employee attitudes in the last few years.  A company’s culture is more and more focused on increasing the level of engagement of the inpiduals that work for said organization. This metric has been correlated with improved service and product quality, an increase in a customer’s intent to buy again, and overall improvement in organizational results. No wonder it has become such a hot issue.

Employee surveys of 15 or more years ago were designed to focus on staff satisfaction with the expectation that a more satisfied team would drive results and reduce turnover. But it was determined that satisfaction was simply not enough. I could be satisfied with my job but still not fully engaged in carrying out the responsibilities that it entailed. We witnessed operating environments where staff satisfaction was high but customer intent to return was low. Commonly called a “Country Club” environment.

So industry moved to the measurement of engagement. If one is fully engaged, customer satisfaction follows. Studies have shown that lack of engagement costs the economy billions of dollars. And companies are trying to address this challenge. But maybe not as effectively as possible.

Let’s look at what happens when an employee is hired. Companies put together very specific training plans and periodic checkpoints to assess the trainee’s progress. These plans are coupled with job descriptions that are reviewed and studied. Some organizations assign a “buddy” to the new team member to help with cultural integration, as well as helping with the attainment of the training learning “gates”. These gates precipitate reviews with rating and feedback as to progress to becoming fully trained. At which time the new team member gets a full work assignment. Success...maybe.

I say maybe because I wonder if the 90-day experience of the trainee is in any way consistent with what that inpidual will experience within the organization once the training period is over. In reviewing the training period, one thing really stands out, and that is heightened focus and frequent contact between the new employee and his / her trainer, HR executive, “Buddy”, supervisor and manager.  Just consider the number of communication points that occur during this first 90-day period. Sometimes these happen daily or multiple times a day and can include such things as pats on the back for achieving the assessment points and a “celebration” at the end of the period. That is if they made it, which most often happens.

So, now the training is over and the “real” world takes over. No more daily reviews. Your buddy has moved on. The supervisor has other things to attend to. The daily plan that was present during the training period is also gone. In essence, the rug has been pulled out from under your feet. And with that, it is often shown that controlled turnover happens right after the training period is over. Acclimation is sometimes more difficult than initially perceived.

The idea of a training period is designed for skill transference, culture introduction and setting the foundation for real engagement. As noted above though, the change experienced after the completion of the training period is so great that it undermines the efforts with respect to culture and engagement? Skill transference and development can be measured. Increased skill level can, over time, also be relatively easily assessed. Attitudes and “buy-in” are more difficult. This is specifically the area where many organizations fall short.

After the 90 days, what happens or can be done to further support and promote attitude and “buy-in” (read: engagement) that were part of the expected outcome of the training period? I would suggest that the experience of the first 90 days needs to somehow be perpetuated. The regular feedback and measurement of meeting delivery or product standards coupled with regular assessment of engagement levels should be integral if companies want to achieve results that outstrip averages. There may be other approaches or methods that can be used to better align employees’ day-to-day operational perception with that of the 90-day training period.  Some might include:

  • Team feedback sessions
  • Regular reviews of customer feedback 
  • Increased frequency of engagement surveying
  • Team goal setting sessions, internally and between the various departments that a group interacts with (in the past we have developed inter-departmental contracts for deliverables)
  • Employee input into community involvement efforts

This is just a brief summary, but when looking at the new demands of today’s workforce (think millennials), for an organization to sustain an engaged staff, models of the past must be updated.  The reality of the cost on either partial or non-engagement is simply too high.  As more products/services come to the market and features begin to resemble each other, the differential advantage has been, and will continue to be, your staff’s attitude. With an economy that is overwhelmingly service oriented, the emphasis must be SERVICE, and the only way to achieve superior, competition winning service is with an engaged team.

Hope you all enjoy our latest edition which deals with this topic. 

Best regards,

Mark