May 26, 2015

Expert Interview: How Employee Engagement Leads to Positive Business Change

During PeopleMatter’s Collaborate ’15 conferenceKevin Kruse, President at Kruse Group, was a guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on employee engagement. Kevin Kruse discussed motivating employees, fast moving work environments, career succession planning, and the role data and analytics play in human resources software.

Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: Let’s talk a little bit about employee engagement. Why is this piece of the HR puzzle so critical to understand and take action on?

Kevin: I think when people understand what this so-called focus of engaging an employee is, it really leads to hard business results. They make it more of a priority, and the secret is each of us as a manager can impact engagement on our own team and it doesn’t take a lot of time, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money— it just comes through our behaviours as an effective leader.

TA: How can real life employees be engaged in a way that makes a positive impact on the entire company?

Kevin: You can certainly increase engaged employees without any technology if you want to. You know the secret is to activate this feeling of growth, recognition and trust. You can coach people verbally, you can say thank you, and explain how much you appreciate them, you can talk about the future vision of the company or your team and all of those things will work.

But when we are running and going on a busy day, it’s very easy to forget this role as leader, as coach, and to just go into task management; where I find that technology can really be beneficial is holding managers throughout the organization accountable. If they are tracking their use of recognition, if they have a learning management system, if they are there assigning courses and finding out who’s taking the courses or not — it helps them to know which managers are participating in these engagement and behaviours and which individual contributors are responding as well.

TA: What advice do you have for a company in a fast paced work environment, how can they make time for that simple validation?

Kevin: What I found that works well, is to try to tie it to things that I’m already doing. A practice I started years ago, is any time I have a staff meeting, I always start it by giving some recognitions.

When it comes to growth: it takes about 30 minutes to an hour just to have a career path conversation. Every manager right now should just open up their calendar, and set up a one-on-one 30 minute conversation with each team member, and make it recurring for every 6 months.

TA: When you can start using workforce data to help employees achieve what they want, to get where they’re trying to go — that sounds like a huge next step with technology.

Kevin: Doctor Wright talked about how one organization in particular has massive results in culture, in engagement, retention, loan turnover, and it’s partly because they’ve got this performance management module which systematizes that recognition and appreciation.  

He said every employee has a career path and it doesn’t have to be that many steps down the road, or that much in the future; but everybody taking a few moments to think about possible paths in the organization goes a long way. So that module is really going to be critical to enable engagement in organizations.

TA: So what happens when you don’t think ahead to plan out career succession? What happens when you don’t keep that bench warm? How can companies not just engage current employee, but also new people joining the company?

Kevin: I always say engagement starts in the hiring process because the manager is the number one variable. We need to want to be engaged at work, so having a good pre-employment screening – questions and assessments for example – will hopefully weed out a lot of those people. But if you get the right people in, then it shifts more to the manager to maintain that engagement.

Now you can struggle with career path because in a lot of retail or quick service industries, some people really want more of a job than a career. Even in those cases in your career path conversation with them, you can still make sure that they are aware of the opportunities in your organization. For example, you could say, “You can still work summers, and next year come back as a Shift Supervisor and get some basic management skills.” A lot of what goes on in these jobs is applicable to later careers, so you can just have those career path conversations, and let them know that they are learning and they are growing and that’s going to help them in the future.

TA: What are you working on next, and how can someone contact you?

Kevin: What I’m working on is a way for managers, no matter where they are, to get coaching — virtual coaching on how to lead for engagement. That will be some online modules that I’m going to work on, so anyone can get access to this material. The easiest way to reach me is kevinkruse.com or on Twitter @kruse or LinkedIn.

Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes.

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