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Staff. Employees. Colleagues. However you describe them, there is no denying that the people in your organisation and the skills they possess are the life blood of your business. They are your most precious resources, and provide your competitive advantage through their knowledge, capability, talent and innovation. This is widely recognised, and so we hear a great deal about the “war for talent”, where organisations compete to attract and retain the best people. Clearly, the impact of losing employees can be dramatic.  There is an immediate impact not only with regards to the time and cost associated with bringing in new staff, but in developing them to the level of performance of the departed employee. IDC estimates a company stands to lose 10-30% of its knowledge and capabilities per year, in part due to employee movement, and the lower levels of knowledge new hires bring to the organisation*.

So it pays to hold on to the people you have.  In these financially challenging times, how can you ensure the loyalty of your team? The old answer was money – providing a financial incentive to retain your talent. But when money is in short supply, how else can you improve the loyalty of your employees, with the specific goal of improving retention? The secret is to take steps to drive up employee engagement.

Securing Engagement
Employee engagement is the willingness and ability of your team to contribute to organisational success; to go “above and beyond” what might be normally required in their daily work to make the organisation successful. Employee engagement has both a rational and an emotional part; it is a blend of job satisfaction, organisational commitment, job involvement and feelings of empowerment. Creating a culture of high employee engagement is not easy, but it is essential to ensure long term organisational success.

TalentKeepers’ annual Talent Engagement & Retention Trends 2012 survey includes results from 430 organizations, and provides a good overview of current employee talent, engagement, and retention trends. The majority (81%) of organizations agree that employee engagement is a strategic priority. TalentKeepers’ research also shows that high level of employee engagement are linked to employee loyalty, high performance, satisfied and loyal customers, and a productive and profitable organisation. So what steps can you take within your organisation to improve the engagement of your employees?

One of the significant contributors to higher engagement is the employee’s level of motivation. Research in this area is plentiful, and there are a number of competing and complementary theories on employee motivation. One of the most compelling and robust is proposed by David McClelland**, who suggests that there are three main motivating drivers, and that for each of us, one of these will be the dominant motivator. Some people are motivated primarily by a need for achievement, some by a need for affiliation and some by a need for power. People will have different characteristics according to their main motivator.  Organisations which can tap into each of these motivating drivers stand the best chance of creating a more motivated and engaged workforce.

Keeping Talent
Terry Hansen posted a blog on the ASTD site entitled Training Incentives Stimulate Employee Growth. Terry wrote “It is a well-known fact that the more employees are engaged in interesting, challenging work and have opportunities for growth, the more likely they are to be highly productive and stay with their company. Therefore, talent development and deployment strategies have to incorporate some way of building employees’ skills to maximum capacity.” This may seem fairly self-evident, but why does training have such an important role in employee engagement, and organisational success?

The Harvard Business Review published an article about the contribution training and development make to organisational success***. The author, Jeffrey Pfeffer explained that the positive effects occur because training has a number of important benefits, each of which can relate directly to one of our motivating drivers:

First of all and most directly, when training is effectively organized and delivered, people learn skills and knowledge that enhance their performance and their companies’ ability to compete.

We can relate this back to the first motivator. Clearly, where training helps increase an employee’s capability and performance, this will help satisfy a need for achievement.  

Second, training represents a tangible investment in people. The norm of reciprocity almost always operates; thus, seeing that their employer has invested in them, employees are likely to reciprocate by investing in their employers. They can do this by working harder and also by becoming more loyal and less likely to leave at the first chance for better opportunities elsewhere.

So, an investment in training which shows an employee they are a valued member of the team will help to satisfy a need for affiliation.

Third, investing in people and building their skills and abilities raises their sense of their own competency and capability. To the extent people believe they are better prepared and more skilled, they will perform at a higher level simply because they have more confidence in themselves, including a belief in their ability to learn and develop that encourages further learning and growth.

More confident employees may feel they have greater status and recognition, and a greater influence on their peers: helping to satisfy a need for power. 

There is no magic formula to guarantee high employee engagement and the rewards it brings to the organisation. However, I do suggest that it’s clear that we can use enablement to drive engagement. Investment in training and education isn’t just about the immediate increase in skills and knowledge, but about longer term organisational success from a more engaged workforce. 

How SAP Education Can Help
I’m not suggesting here that the answer is to send your employees on SAP training courses; the answer is simultaneously more complex and more subtle. There is also not one single correct approach here. Any solution will need to be specific to your organisational culture, and your specific demographics. Our Education Learning Architects help customers to use enablement to enhance employee engagement and retention.

Here are some things to consider. 

  • Create a learning culture – and be visible about your commitment to investing in your peoples’ learning – to help maximise your employees’ affiliation motivation.  What are you doing to improve your employer brand value?
  • Capture informal learning and build on it: remember that the majority of learning is done outside the classroom – how are you going to manage, improve and exploit this?
  • Encourage, recognise and reward high achievement – keep your best with you, let them know it, and let them show their peers how it’s done
  • Train your managers – people join companies, but people leave managers
  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure – collect employee feedback regularly, and respond to it

Investing in your people can only encourage them to invest in you.

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