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Employee Engagement Takes Teamwork, Planning
MADISON, Wis. (8/21/13)--Studies show that organizations with high employee engagement are more productive and efficient. And these companies boast higher retention numbers, which avoids the costs of training new hires when employees leave.

But you can't fake employee engagement--nor can managers dictate it, according to the August issue of Credit Union Front Line Newsletter, the Credit Union National Association's monthly sales and service newsletter for branch staff and their manager.

"Top-down solutions might produce clarity, but they don't inspire buy-in or  practicality," Gallup Business Journal reports (May 30). "That's because top-down decision making about engagement fails to recognize the varying dynamics among work groups. More important, it misses an opportunity to engage teams in creating and 'owning' their own solutions."

Treat employee engagement as a process, not a one-time event. Action plans formed through open dialogue between managers and employees are a proven strategy to increase engagement for the long haul.

When evaluating employee engagement, Gallup Business Journal recommends asking employees five questions to generate participation, determine the most urgent goals, promote practical courses of action, and encourage ownership:
  • How do we define success? Gallup's employee engagement survey features a dozen statements such as "I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right" and "My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work." Different credit unions--even different departments in credit unions--will answer these questions differently. Managers should listen for unexpected suggestions and gauge the intensity of the feedback about issues already on their radar.
  • What's the ideal outcome? Encourage employees to think big, starting with the best solution--which might not always be the most expensive one. These conversations breed empowerment and create a benchmark for achievement.
  • How far must we go to reach the ideal? Talking about shortcomings as a team or organization isn't easy. But a transparent discussion builds goodwill and creates a platform for dialogue. And everyone can take responsibility for processes or products under their control.
  • Which opportunity will have the greatest impact? Engagement that isn't tied to performance is pointless. Employees want to weigh in on changes that can make their jobs more efficient or effective. You can't prioritize every issue--or none will be a priority. But giving staff input creates ownership, and encourages them to speak up if other improvement opportunities arise.
  • What's every team member willing to do? All employees should leave the discussion with "next steps" and the knowledge that their role is important to the team.
Managers can--and should--influence engagement, said Credit Union Front Line Newsletter. But by involving the team in answering these five questions, the credit union ties engagement to actions that can improve the workplace--and allow it to keep members' needs top of mind.
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