outside looking in

You don't have to look hard to find a platform that promises to produce happy, motivated, engaged employees.

But should we really consider technology the foundation of enviable corporate culture? Or do happy workplaces have roots far deeper than the latest, greatest social business tools?

At a time when the most common recipe for workplace success includes nothing more than collaboration tools, a foosball table and a bring-your-pets to the office policy, it's a question worth considering — at least if you hope to keep talented people.

Survey Says …

A new survey released today rates employee retention as the number one challenge facing HR leaders.

According to the 2015 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, 40 percent of HR professionals cite employee retention/turnover as their top organizational challenge, followed by employee engagement.

The survey results were announced by Globoforce, a provider of social recognition solutions, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an association focused on human resource management.

op/ed
Based on responses from 823 HR leaders, the survey examined workplace challenges, the merits of employee recognition programs and the impact these programs can have on company culture.

Similar SHRM/Globoforce surveys in 2012 and 2013 found employee engagement and succession planning were the biggest challenges for HR leaders. But concerns about retention and turnover have now overtaken both, a sign of the "growing war for talent," the organizations claim.

According to the survey:

  • 40 percent of respondents say that the loss of personnel is a top challenge — and 29 percent are concerned about finding replacement talent
  • 39 percent rate employee engagement as the primary concern; down from 47 percent in 2013
  • 24 percent of respondents cite culture management as the top HR concern

Back to Basics

But can we solve any of those concerns with new technologies or workplace toys? Or is the secret to workplace happiness — and long-term employees — far more basic?

Could we increase retention rates and make the average office a far more pleasant place to be if we put greater focus on intangibles like respect, appreciation and justified pats on the back?

Should managers stop viewing phrases like "good job" and "thank you" as signs of weakness?

Here, There, Everywhere

Statistics show that teamwork in 2015 is more than a cliché: it's the way work is done. In fact, regardless of the size of the organization where you work or the role you play in the organization, odds are you have to play nice with people on three to five teams — often at a geographic distance.

But how successfully are we developing happy workers and strong corporate cultures in this age of remote offices and geographically dispersed workforces?

If your main office is in New York City but you have six or 60 or 600 remote workers, do you recognize the realities of virtual workplaces — or do you regularly make your remote workers feel out of the loop?

Are you building morale by having burger day at headquarters … or just creating a schism between the employees in your main office and those who work remotely?

Are you taking the time to explain your processes and procedures clearly and completely to your remote team members … or expecting them to understand intuitively what you want them to do, and when you want them to do it?

Are you recognizing how long, how hard and how creatively your remote workers accomplish their tasks … or assuming they spend half the day catching up on the shows they missed on Netflix?

Maybe before any company spends another dime to advance its corporate culture or boost employee engagement, top management should engage in a little conversation and introspection. And here's a simple question to get the discussion started:

Do you know what your employees do for you on a regular basis — and do you think it might be a good idea to offer an occasional "thank you"?

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  Title image by cristee12.