Winding down from my presentation at The Conference Board’s Social Media for Human Resources seminar, there is one important takeaway that resonates with me: the importance of employee engagement and trust. Engagement is employees’ connection to their work, organization, leaders, managers, clients or customers, performance, and results. On the more human side, it’s also the degree to which employees are willing to go the extra mile, display loyalty to their company before, after and during core business hours; and display satisfaction with their work and workplace. “Organizations need engaged employees at all levels (leaders, managers, staff) to achieve results significant for the organization” (Business Exchange: Employee Engagement).
During lunch, Erin Arcario (@earcario) and Nicole Maddox from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc, a couple of very enthusiastic conference attendees, and I actively discussed the benefits and risks of an organization’s social media involvement; the consensus being that the benefits outweighed the risks. One of those key benefits being that social media offers an additional platform in which to engage employees — internally and externally.
Considering that upwards of 50% of companies block access to social networking sites from the office, it’s clear that employee engagement requires a leap of faith… almost blind trust, if you will. And in a time where social media has made trust such an important element in successful business /employee relationships, an engaged employee is more essential than ever.
In fact, as one conference hashtag follower noted, “@CincyRecruiter If companies do not trust what their employees will do online, why did they hire them in the first place? #tcbsm4hr.” [MNHeadhunter Paul DeBettignie].
Growing up as a child, one of my greatest angsts was how my parents believed that my behavior, good or bad, was a direct reflection on them. Now that I myself, am a parent, this statement has a whole new, and more appreciative, meaning for me. The same goes for your company. Your actions, whether intentional or unintentional, absolutely reflect on your company. And like my parents, you eventually have to trust your employees to “do the right thing.” Yes, sometimes there are blunders, but there are even more successes.
Your goal, as a leader within your organization, is to make sure your employees are engaged enough to understand and manage risk. In doing that, you will find your greatest return. Consider this. Engaged employees:
- stay with their employers longer, report higher levels of satisfaction and make significant contributions.
- present less risk because they not only understand, but also care that their participation in social media can potentially reflect on their company.
- understand how their day-to-day work directly contributes to overall company goals and priorities.
According to the ISR Global Engagement Study of 664K employees, there is a 52% gap in operating income between high engagement and low engagement companies. So the question isn’t really can you afford to engage your employees but rather can you afford not to? If you’re not quite feeling this in your pocket yet or not yet appreciating how significant employee engagement is to your company’s bottom-line, you should try HR Solutions’ Return on Engagement calculator. With their calculator, you can determine the financial impact engagement can have on your organization and see the savings that a focus on engagement can yield.
As a final thought, I leave you with this… Employee engagement is not a competitive advantage anymore it is a basic organizational requirement to achieve results. Your employees are already active participants in social media, so why not leverage the very platforms your employees use in order to get them passionate about your company, your values and culture, and your products and services.
Place trust in your employees and you will find that your biggest return is an engaged employee who trusts you back.