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PHOTO: Jahsie Ault

I’ve always been a strong believer in the old adage that an organization is only as good as its people. The people are what bring a culture together and truly make it what it is. If you were to ask any of the top organizations what their No. 1 asset, differentiator or core strength is, you would likely hear similar feedback — it’s their employees.

So it comes as no surprise that many organizations are adopting new recruiting and retention policies to gain the best talent. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to developing an employee engagement plan, certain key initiatives can boost retention and improve work experiences — which also has a positive impact on customer satisfaction. And they all revolve around the same thing: keeping employees at the center of what you do.

1. Create a Clear Company Brand

When developing or nurturing an employee engagement program, start with the company brand. Employees should have a clear understanding of the corporate culture they are joining and the role they play in enhancing and promoting that culture.

An authentic work environment doesn’t happen by accident; it has to be deliberate, and it takes time and continual effort. It's a critical part of helping employees better identify with the organization and align their daily work to the company’s core vision and mission. 

When working to define or refine your organization’s culture, ask yourself, “Why would talented individuals want to work here?” If the answers don’t align with who you are — or who you want to be — as an organization, it may be time to consider a more focused approach to cultivating and communicating your employer brand. For example, at Hyland, our executives sat down together to establish our five Core Values that ring true in almost everything we do as a company.

Related Article: Customer-Centric? Employee-Centric? How About a People-Centric Culture

2. Give Employees a Voice

Employees want to know that their opinions and aspirations are factored into an organization’s business strategy and culture. Listening to what employees say, and giving both positive and negative feedback the same weight and attention, ensures employees feel valued throughout their tenure. When you truly listen and care for employees’ best interests, you’ll find they are more willing to go the extra mile in their jobs.

Start by incorporating year-round, anonymous feedback opportunities for employees. Once you have feedback, make sure you’re reviewing comments and concerns with leaders companywide. Retention interviews are a useful tool to gauge an employee’s level of happiness and likelihood to stay. Meeting with individuals one-on-one every few years to discuss their career provides a more personal way to deliver feedback and discuss ways to improve.

Closing the loop is key to the success of any retention program. Once a neutral party — like an HR team — receives feedback, there has to be a system in place to take appropriate steps to address feedback and communicate changes. Many HR departments work with leaders across the organization to impact change from small, quick wins to larger initiatives. It’s a worthwhile time investment, and requires advocates, accountable owners and buy-in from the top. At our company quarterly update meetings, led by our executives, we communicate this feedback and the steps we are taking to improve. Transparency and top-down buy-in go a long way toward showing employees that their opinions matter.

Related Article: Why You Need to Map the Employee Journey

3. Align Employee and Customer Experience

Happy employees are higher performers and take the initiative to improve, which has a direct impact on customer experience and overall company success. While that's hardly surprising, it can still be a struggle for organizations to articulate how each department and job function ties to the company vision, goals and specific strategies.

Being transparent with employees and providing continual education on those goals and strategies connects the dots for them and shows them how the work they do impacts operations. When employees see the value they deliver, they perform better and are more likely to take the extra step to ensure your customers are receiving the best service.

At our annual companywide meetings, our executives review the year behind us and set goals for the year ahead, highlighting areas of focus and important initiatives. This is one way we help employees gain a better understanding of overall goals and how they can make the greatest impact on the company’s success.

While no company is the same, there are universal benefits to focusing on the well-being of employees. When you create a place for them to belong, thrive and do meaningful work, you will be better suited to attract the best talent, retain valuable employees and improve overall customer experiences. Above all else, caring for employees and their careers creates a more connected culture.