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Expert Advice for Medium and Midsize Businesses

Overcoming the Disengagement Dilemma

According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, nearly 70% of employees are not engaged. This is a serious issue that affects much more than just company morale; it directly impacts your bottom line. In fact, Gallup estimates disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually.

To discuss the impact of disengagement in the workplace and the ways in which small-and medium-size businesses (SMBs) can successfully engage their employees, Oracle SMB asked the Twitter community to share their insights with us during a recent Tweetchat. We heard from a variety of subject matter experts and authorities, including Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBizDaily.com; Andrew Sherman, author of The Crisis of Disengagement; and Jack Bienko, U.S. Small Business Administration Deputy for Entrepreneurship Education.

In the Tweetchat, participants discussed disengagement in the modern workplace, how SMB leaders can address this prevalent issue, and much more. Continue reading to see what they had to say.

What’s the current state of the American workforce?

The workforce is changing. Next year, as Generation Z turns 18, we’ll have 4 full generations in the workforce. Four generations means you need different tactics to attract and retain different types of workers. Benefits that appeal to baby boomers may be of no interest to millennials or Generation Zers.
– Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBizDaily.com

We have a highly disengaged workforce. Many feel disconnected to the mission and values of their companies. We have the potential but need clearer articulation of core values of the enterprise and how each person fits in. Both younger workers and baby boomers want to be part of something larger than themselves. We want to know that our work and our lives truly matter—in our workplaces and our communities. The challenges stem from all levels of the organization, from the boardroom to the mailroom. CSR, Corporate Citizenship, Ecosystem Engagement must all become key parts of the employment value proposition.
– Andrew J. Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Author of The Crisis of Disengagement

How did our issues with employees get to this point? What signs did we miss?

I think the incredibly fast changes in technology and the on-boarding process has had an effect on employees. The “pace” of business has increased so much in the past few years. It’s getting harder for employees to keep up.
– Brian Moran (@BrianMoran), Award-winning Business Advisor

Because too many people stopped listening to one another. Everyone is concerned about their own issues. Business owners are generally not prepared when it swings to an employee’s market. That’s where we are now. With unemployment so low, it’s hard to find qualified workers who will stick with you. Harder for SMBs who have less money. People aren’t loyal to employers because employers aren’t loyal to them. It’s all about value, trust and respect.
– Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBizDaily.com

The convergence of team member preferences (some aligned by generational trends), technologies’ continued impact, and global markets/competiveness makes for an interesting workplace full of challenges and opportunities.
– Jack Bienko (@Bienko), Deputy for Entrepreneurship Education of the U.S. Small Business Administration

Much of it ties to expectation management, aligning what the employer can truly offer with the life goals of each employee. Each generation wants to do “better” than the last, but “better” may need to be redefined. The key sign that we missed is that people now want to work smarter, not harder. So, how do we get there faster? Better? Technology is moving at the speed of light—it will transform our workforce, our workplace, our definition of work itself.
– Andrew J. Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Author of The Crisis of Disengagement

How much of a role has digital transformation played in the disengagement dilemma?

I think many companies haven’t even thought to ensure that employee engagement keeps pace with digital transformation. Brands spend so much time heads down, trying to get the digital ecosystem to work, that they forget about the people IN the ecosystem. Engagement has more meaning when there is a big human element. Digital will never fully replace face-to-face interactions.
– Carla Johnson (@CarlaJohnson), CEO of Type A Communications and Author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing

A huge role. We’re training people to not look at each other in meetings as everyone stares at their mobile devices. We need to integrate digital dependence with human contact. It’s about authenticity, whether you’re the boss or the worker.
– Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBizDaily.com

A huge impact. It’s empowering and very scary all at the same time. Digital is changing how we live, how we shop, how we work, and even how we love. The hardest balance for managers is finding the “new” balance between the human touch and digital efficiency. You see, it now swings between online vs. brick-and-mortar retail, virtual workplace vs. in-person, etc.
– Andrew J. Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Author of The Crisis of Disengagement

What can SMB business leaders do to reverse the current trend of employee disengagement?

It’s about sharing responsibility, offering room for growth. Give people what they can’t get working for a bigger business. We just posted an article about 5 Ways to Keep Your Employees Happy. Make sure you understand what motivates them individually. Like I said, boomers want different things than millennials.
– Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBizDaily.com

Firm believer that understanding your team members’ individual interests is a key to engagement. Take the time to discuss with each member.
– Jack Bienko (@Bienko), Deputy for Entrepreneurship Education of the U.S. Small Business Administration

First and foremost, care about employees. All leadership actions reflect what they care about/prioritize the most.
– Carla Johnson (@CarlaJohnson), CEO of Type A Communications and Author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing

Loosen up titles and “job descriptions” to job scopes. Provide more flexibility in contribution and creative career pathing.
– Joann Corley (@JoannCorley), Founder of The Human Sphere

Stop acting like the Emperor’s New Clothes. Many are in denial or just want to hear good feedback. Boards need to embrace culture as a key strategic asset and focus in on making it as strong as possible. Another major fallacy: Nobody gets more engaged as a result of free pizza Fridays or an old video game in the kitchen! Leaders must demonstrate empathy, authenticity and inclusion if they want to truly move the engagement needle. Leaders need to listen to what truly motivates their teams. Money is often way lower on the list than you would expect.
– Andrew J. Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Author of The Crisis of Disengagement

What specific elements should go into a formal engagement strategy?

Goals, objectives, measurement, message, audience breakdown, channels, responsible parties and deadlines. Companies need to understand what matters to each of their audiences and why. That’s how they’re able to engage successfully – from the employee’s point of view. SMBs need to reorg based on what jobs need to be done and what customers need to accomplish – not what traditional jobs have been.
– Carla Johnson (@CarlaJohnson), CEO of Type A Communications and Author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing

Listening should be your first step. In order to create a formal engagement strategy, you must understand your employees, build the model and also research practices. Listening does not mean you survey people over and over without action. It means preparing you listen, then taking proper steps to build the strategy. Action!
– Gwendolyn Turner (@GwenFTurner), President of Princeton Proper

Find out what motivates your workers and try to provide every group with something that appeals to them. As we’ve said, it’s not about money. For many younger staff, they want opportunity to learn more, to attend conferences, and yet, they’re often told they’re too junior to go. Be open. Show that you’re listening. Schedule monthly or quarterly “town halls” with your staff to address their concerns. Management by walking around may be a cliché, but there’s truth and value to it. Don’t keep yourself isolated. SHOW, don’t tell. It’s not going to change overnight, either. You need to earn their trust.
– Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBizDaily.com

Be ready to overhaul your compensation and benefits systems and toss out the old school org charts! Same goes with career advancement. Today’s worker wants career mapping, education and training plans, mentoring, coaching. Show your team that you are ready to invest in their futures, not just your beach house and sports car. It’s not an either/or—significant steps can be taken to improve engagement and it will actually increase profitability. Imagine the impact on innovation, customer service and productivity if a 70%+ disengaged workforce drops to 50%.
– Andrew J. Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Author of The Crisis of Disengagement

Shared ownership of many projects/products, accountability for SR exec “engagement results,” and an organizational scorecard on engagement all seem to be important elements.
– Jack Bienko (@Bienko), Deputy for Entrepreneurship Education of the U.S. Small Business Administration

For daily insights and advice from Brian Moran and other SMB Experts, join our LinkedIn group, Ask the SMB Experts. The Ask the SMB Experts group is a forum for growing businesses to come together with industry experts to discuss key issues, trends and more.

 

 

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