5 way companies fail to engage employees

If your company suffers from low productivity, low morale and high turnover you need to know this.

We all know that engaged employees are more productive and committed because they enjoy where they work... So why do so many organisations get it wrong? Why do so many organisations have low productivity, low morale and high turnover?

Far too many organisations waste time and money trying to figure out how to squeeze the life out of their employees. This might explain why some of the largest organisations in Singapore have low productivity, low morale and turnover in excess of 15% per annum.

Why are Google, Boston Consulting Group, NetApp and Goldman Sachs rated as being some of the best places to work? Because they understand that a happy employee is a profitable employee, and focus on addressing the needs of employees – not how to squeeze them.

What are those needs I hear you ask? Well, they were first featured by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper titled ‘A Theory Of Human Motivation’, and stand as true today as they did then.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs states that are all motivated by 5 levels of needs at some stage in our lives. Our most basic needs are inborn and evolve as we grow. In order to move up the hierarchy we must first satisfy our lower needs.

These are the most basic of needs, and the most obvious, as they are vital for survival. Employees need an adequate amount of money to ensure these needs are met.

 Consideration: Determine what the real cost of living is and commit to paying every employee a decent wage that they can survive on. This doesn’t mean opening your checkbook for every Tom, Dick or Harry. It means a fair days pay for a fair days work.
 Consideration: Provide good quality food at the lowest possible price. This can be done via vending machines, a canteen or by having food delivered to the office. A great example of this is Google headquarters which has 6 fully catered restaurants.

Security Needs
Once physiological needs are met, safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. Employees need an adequate amount of job security to ensure these needs are met.

 Consideration: Provide a working environment that is safe, comfortable and enjoyable to work in. Ensure that there is enough space for privacy when needed.
 Consideration: Keep an open communications channel with employees as to the organisation’s performance.

Less basic than physiological and security needs is the need for belonging and acceptance. Employees need to feel that they are a meaningful part of an organisation to ensure these needs are met.

 Consideration: Give employees a stake in the company. Whether it is in the form of profit sharing, stock options, or bonuses tied to performance. This will give employees a sense of ownership.
 Consideration: Ensure employees have a development plan and get regular appraisals.
 Consideration: Organise regular sporting and outdoor activities to promote teamwork and camaraderie.

Becomes increasingly important as needs are fulfilled, and revolves around the need to be recognised and respected. Employees need to feel that their contributions to the organisation are recognised and rewarded to ensure these needs are met.

 Consideration: Define expectations for employees and give them as much autonomy as possible. Ensure that there is two-way performance reviews, so that employees give and receive regular feedback they're performance.
 Consideration: Provide employees with the opportunity to coach and mentor other employees.
 Consideration: Provide employees with a well-equipped gym, or discounted gym membership so that they are encouraged to stay physically fit.

Upon fulfilling and mastering the other needs comes the need to become everything one is capable of becoming. Employees need to feel that they are growing within the organisation and fulfilling their full potential.

 Consideration: Provide employees with job rotation and opportunities to develop, learn new skills and grow, both professionally and personally.
 Consideration: Stand for something more that profit. Adopt a charity and organise regular fund raising activities.

There are just a few examples of how Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs are used for employee engagement. Whichever route an organisation decides to take, the key is to shift the focus from trying to get more out of employees to addressing the needs of employees

Jim Livingstone is the Head of Training & Development for Northpoint Training Solutions, a leading provider of integrated training solutions that is in the business of improving performance and enriching lives.

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