Strategies for Honing the Employer-Employee Relationship that Actually Work

by Sumeet Chahal, with Culture Index


Focus on Your Peoples' Strengths   

One of the most common strategies for reducing turnover has been to invest in employee engagement initiatives. These efforts take many forms (engagement surveys, manager training, expensive company perks, etc.).   


It is true that the more engaged an employee is, the less likely they are to turnover. However, disengagement is only one of many factors that lead to turnover – and it’s not as significant a driver as many think*.   


What’s more important, efforts to reduce turnover by improving employee engagement have not had the impact many hoped they would. According to Bersin & Associates, U.S. investment in employee engagement initiatives grew from $750M/year in 2012 to $1.5B/year in 2017. Unfortunately, despite a 108% increase in investment, employee engagement levels have remained relatively flat over that same period. 


Why has such a massive investment yielded so little? One possibility is that engagement has more to do with the internal motivators that drive a person rather than external influences put forth by the company. In fact, many hiring managers have observed employees who seem to have brought their engagement with them to the job from day 1. The bottom line is when you hire good organizational leaders who understand how to hire and motivate top talent, engagement takes care of itself. 


It’s very common to observe two workers in the same position and work environment who demonstrate very different levels of engagement. Externally, their situations are identical, but internally they have very different traits and past experiences that drive them.   


This certainly is supported by a recent meta study, which aggregated data from 114 independent employee surveys. The results of this study found that 50% of the variability in employee engagement was explained by a person’s personality traits (HBR 2018).   



The Platinum Rule: Treating Employees How They Want to Be Treated  

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do to you.  Since we were children, we’ve been taught that this is the absolute best way to ensure that your actions are considerate and helpful within your relationships. However, the Golden Rule has its limitations. It may not be as universal as we might have grown up thinking it is. It may not actually be the best guide when it comes to navigating our relationships.  


That’s where the Platinum Rule comes in. The Platinum Rule takes into account the fact that not all relationships should be approached in the same way. It’s particularly important when it comes to how you treat your employees. When it comes to running a successful business — the Platinum Rule is the best way to make sure that you’re treating your employees like they want to be treated.  


Maybe you appreciate constant feedback but giving your employees constant feedback makes them feel smothered. Maybe you like to know what’s going on with your business but sharing that information with your employees may feel like too much responsibility for them. They may even feel helpless since you have the ability to make positive changes to your business that they don’t.  


Some Key Takeaways    

  • First, nationwide efforts to reduce turnover through improved employee engagement have yielded little results.   
  • Second, research suggests that an employee’s level of engagement in a job is more likely the result of his/her own personal traits than any engagement initiatives undertaken by the company.   
  • Third, if the above is true, then the best way to increase employee engagement is to focus on hiring people more likely to be engaged.   
  • Fourth, if true for employee engagement, the same holds true for turnover. The best way to increase engagement and reduce turnover is to manage to each individuals’ strengths rather than constantly trying to improve on weaknesses. 
  • Fifth, you need to use people analytics to understand your employees’ traits and what actually motivates them. This is what will allow your managers to focus on each employees’ strengths and individual needs. If we know that only 29% of employees are engaged, imagine the ROI and increase in productivity if you could just increase engagement to 50% through the use of analytics! 


*Some statistics sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics



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