The 12 Ways to Engage & Retain Staff – Part 2 – Growth and Profit

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The 12 Ways to Engage & Retain Staff – Part 2

The 12 Ways to Engage & Retain Staff – Part 2

By Andrew Cooke | September 7, 2012

The 12 Ways to Engage & Retain Staff – Part 2

by  Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

12 Ways to Engage & Retain Staff

In our previous blog, we looked at why employee engagement is so important and provided an overview of Gallup’s findings from its extensive research.  This was summarised in the following 12 ways to engage employees.  In this blog we look in further detail at the first three ways.

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the right materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

Remember when you first started your current job.  The initial excitement, interest and challenges create a honeymoon period when you are highly engaged.  Like any relationship you cannot maintain the intensity of this, and after six months you begin to become disengaged.  How this happens varies for each of the 12 elements of engagement.  The Gallup Organisation found in Australia that after six months in a new job engagement drops by an average of 62%.  This makes our ability to retain and engage people a key concern, and our need to understand the 12 elements a priority.

 In looking at each of these elements we look at three parts:

  1. What does each element mean?
  2. What is the evidence for this?
  3. What should we do to maintain high engagement for each element?

This helps us to identify where we may be weak, identify the priorities, and what actions to utilise from an a la carte menu of actions.
First Element – Knowing What is Expected at Work
What does it mean?
This is about establishing job clarity for your reports. To be a great manager you need to be able to effectively define and communicate what is expected of your direct reports.
What is the evidence?
At best, 50% of employees strongly agree they know exactly what is expected of them on the job – that means the other 50% do not.  The Gallup research indicated that when employees know what is expected of them, their productivity increases anywhere from 5-to-10% and there is a 10-to-20% reduction in on-the-job accidents occurs.
What should we do?

  1. Vision – make sure your employees know where you are going – be crystal clear and consistent in communicating what your vision for the business is.  This provides clarity of purpose for employees in what they do, and makes it easier for them to follow you. You don’t want “I’d like to follow you, but I don’t know where you are going”.
  2. Establish job clarity to combine individual efforts for the greatest cumulative result. This is more than a job description it includes for each employee:
  • Knowing what is expected;
  • Detailed understanding of their role and
  • How it fits in with what everyone else does

3. Focus on outcome-based rewards to ensure they are focused on achievement rather than ‘doing’.  Make sure that staff are not being incentivized to do routine things.
4. A good question to ask is: “I’d like you to introduce yourself, tell us your job, and how doing your job well increases the profits of your company?”. In doing this look at individual and group results, and understand how they drive the achievement of outcomes.
5. Communicate – wrap your conversations with employees around the key aspects of the business’ mission, this gives them insight into how what they do contributes to the bigger picture.
Second Element – Materials & Equipment                  
What does it mean?
A good manager ensures that their reports have the tools and resources they need to get the job done in expert fashion.
What is the evidence?
Only 33% of employees strongly agree they have been given the tools and resources to expertly get their job done – that means 67% have not.  Gallup research indicates employees are more productive and more engaged at work when they have the tools and resources to perform.
The importance of this is best illustrated by when employees do not have the materials and equipment they need to do their work, this increases their frustration and creates anger with the company for placing them in this situation.  In Australia, 71% of employers providing tools and resources such as career management programs say it has improved their ability to attract and retain employees.
What should we do?

  1. Ensure you not only have the right equipment and materials, but that you make regular small improvements in them, as well as modest changes to the process.  These have a multiplicative effect over time.
  2. Giving employees the right materials, equipment and process helps to reduce stress.  People want to do their jobs well, and to be productive – so help them be so.

Improvements in materials and equipment also include higher customer engagement and higher productivity.  The opportunity for effective and efficient feedback from staff on what can be done to improve things also helps to address this area and engage staff.
Third Element – The Opportunity to Do What I Do Best
What does it mean?
You need to be able to match the right person to the right job, or the right job to the right person.  Key questions to consider include:

  • Who would excel in this assignment?
  • What makes someone succeed where others fail?
  • Is it innate, is it learnt, or is it through effort?
  • Can excellence in a certain role be learned?
  • How fast and much can people change?
  • Can people be moulded to fit the needs of the role or not?

What is the evidence?
67% of employees failed to strongly agree they have been given the opportunity to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.  Gallup research indicates when businesses provide employees the opportunities to maximize their natural talents, employee engagement at work increases 33% resulting in significant gains in a company’s productivity.
What should we do?

  1. Don’t believe the notion about human potential that an employee can do anything if he puts his mind to it, can envision it, and tries hard enough or cares enough.  Not true.  (I may want to be a basketball player, but at 5’7″ “you can’t coach height”). Where there may be meaningful differences then remember these are not just opportunities to advance business interests, but also to improve staff’s careers.
  2. Talk with your employees in a positive, passionate way:
  • “So what are your gifts?”
  • “Where are you most happy?”
  • “Where do you think you could be utilised where your skills could be used best? Why?”

3. Establish where your people are in the “flow” – where the employee enjoys the work itself rather than enduring the work just to earn the pay, or to gain an opportunity to be promoted to a better, more fulfilling job.
4. Look at how you can mould the job for each employee around the way they work most naturally and to maximise the optimal experiences that provide “flow” and drive individual and team outcomes.
5. Managers of the best workgroups spend a disproportionate amount of time with their high producers, matching talents to tasks and emphasize individual strengths over seniority in making personnel decisions.
6. Regular staff reviews (every two to three months) on an one-to-one basis, these should include questions such as:

  • What do you do best?
  • What do you like about your job?
  • Where do you think you have greatest impact? etcetera

7. Creating an effective team is about taking the team’s collective abilities and utilizing them to achieve the results and outcomes, not how well individuals perform.
Which of these 3 elements have you used and to what effect?  If you were to rank them which would you use first?  Would you use them with everyone, some of them or with no-one?
Share your ideas, and share the wealth.
In the next blog we look at the next three elements including:
4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
Until then share your thoughts and ideas here, and feel free to share this blog and articles with any colleagues, clients or friends you feel may find this of value.
Share the knowledge, share the wealth!
About Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions (“GPS”)
Andrew Cooke
An experienced executive coach, business facilitator, and management consultant Andrew has more than 25 years’ national and international experience, working across a range of industries and businesses.  He is passionate in helping people, teams and companies to unlock their individual and collective potential, enabling them to achieve their personal and business goals and, in turn, to help them unlock the potential of others.
Andrew has extensive experience in dealing with both blue-chip and start-up companies, and has had extensive international experience in the UK, the Middle East and Ireland across a range of industries. 
He has post-graduate business qualifications with a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the London Business School.
Growth & Profit Solutions(“GPS”)
Andrew runs Growth & Profit Solutions, working with individuals, teams, groups and corporate so they can unlock their potential, that of others, and create a life and a job they love and choose to lead.
Through customized development programmes using experiential learning, backed by group workshops, individual one-to-one coaching and on-going support the individual and group development needs are addressed, the skills and capabilities are unlocked and the people can grow and achieve both personal and business outcomes on a sustainable basis. His blog, Growth and Profit, can be found at
To find out more about this visit the GPS website or contact Andrew at [email protected] or on +61 (0)401 842 673.

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