Don’t Let Unhappy Employees Kill Your Brand

Do you know how satisfied and engaged your employees really are? People who stay with the same company longer than two or three years are becoming the exception, not the rule. And in such a competitive hiring climate, you can bet your competition has their sights set on your best and brightest.

Happy employees are one of the most versatile and beneficial talent strategies in your arsenal. They’re organic brand builders, they give you referrals and they make your company values and culture message authentic.

If you’re not sure where your talent stands, here are 4 employee engagement ideas to reconnect before they leave the fold on a sour note and hurt your brand in the process.

#1: If You Don’t Have an Employee Engagement Strategy, Get One

If you measure employee success by their level of productivity, you could be missing an important point. Productivity is only one small part of the grand picture and it’s not an effective way to predict who is happy and who has their eye on the door.

Gallup surveyed nearly 500,000 workers and turned up some surprising results. The higher the engagement, the more successful the company:

  • 25-65 percent less attrition (depending on the usual turnover rates for the industry)
  • 37 percent less absenteeism
  • 21 percent higher productivity
  • 28 percent less shrinkage
  • 22 percent better profitability

According to The Social Workplace, disengaged employees cost America about $370 billion every year.

Without an employee engagement strategy, there’s no real way to measure what’s real and take corrective action. If you don’t have one, get one.

#2: If You’re Not Sure What Matters Most to Employees, Find Out

Have you ever received a ”Free Gift with Purchase” that landed at the bottom of a closet, found its way into the re-gift pile or went into the trash bin? How well do you think the company knew you? How effective was that gift at keeping your business? How much money might that company have lost in a promotion that missed the mark?

Aside from a few obvious things, there’s no real room for guessing about what matters most to employees. The only way to know is to research and ask them.

According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), it’s safe to make a handful of assumptions based on nationwide research. For example, money is important, but it’s not everything. HBR says culture and values matter more than money. Quality of leadership ranks high, as well.

That’s not to say that money is insignificant. Princeton University found that once an employee reaches a salary range above $75,000, more pay matters even less. Higher earners want different things from the company they work for. Below that salary level, money could have more power.

If pay is competitive, another company’s talent strategies might not swoop in to entice your employees away. Company culture and values matter more, and that’s where it gets tricky. A positive company culture is relative to the industry and the people who work there. If you don’t know what matters, ask.

#3: Change the Way You Think About Employee Reviews

What does your employee review process look like? Do employees file into the conference room one after the other? Do supervisors ask a series of standard questions and offer generic feedback? If so, you’re missing an enormous opportunity to keep employees engaged. They want feedback, just maybe not the way you handle it now.

Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media founder and CEO, says at LinkedIn that the traditional (typical) review process is mostly useless. A better approach, she asserts, is a ”consistent communication loop” with feedback offered continually.

This ongoing feedback speaks to company culture. When it’s part of everyday life, positive feedback helps employees continually build on successes and negative feedback isn’t perceived as an attack.

A traditional, annual review is often perceived as an adversarial situation. But when there’s a culture of ongoing communication, much of the performance review dread is diluted. Supervisors and employees already know what’s working well for an employee and what needs some improvement.

Communication keeps employees engaged. An annual review, if that’s the extent of feedback, leaves 364 days of separation each year between employees and company leaders.

Employee engagement
The way you think about feedback speaks to company culture.

#4: Ask Employees to Reverse the Process and Review the Company

If you think performance reviews are tough, imagine if employees reversed the roles. They should, according to Hogan’s research and views. Glassdoor agrees and says it shouldn’t stop at the executive level. Everyone with a role in the company should be encouraged to give feedback.

Firstly, encouraging feedback, says Glassdoor, lets employees know you trust them. Why else would you ask for reviews? Just be sure the culture is one of true freedom to speak. If employees think you expect feedback and that you expect it to be positive, they’ll feel like a promotional tool and you’ll lose any trust that you wanted to build.

Secondly, feedback is the only way you’ll know how well you’re meeting employee expectations. It’s not unusual to have a disgruntled person on staff. If you have several, you probably have an issue to work on. If several have the same complaints, you have the beginnings of a new company culture strategy.

Employees can kill your brand. Fortunately, they can also make your brand messaging real, which conveys naturally to the public and to people they refer. It all depends on how you approach employee engagement and whether or not it’s a priority.

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