Creating Employee Experiences: Three Keys To Engaging Current And Future Hires

Post written by

Jared Narlock

Jared is a former VP of Talent Development and a certified coach in organizational development at St. Charles Healthcare.

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Do you design your organization as a place people want to engage in or as a place people need to be in? I believe a shift is coming forward in the way people are thinking about their potential next employers. With current unemployment rates lingering between 3.5 and 4%, many workers don't need to actively search for a job. But in my experience, those who do are searching regularly for a more engaging organization.

Engagement is critical, and many candidates today are basing their choice on which company fits their wants. With this shift, there are key areas employers should ensure are present and prevalent in their organizations' cultures if they intend to attract and retain a high-performing workforce. As a coach of organizational development, I've determined three keys you can incorporate into your company:

1. Flexibility

Job seekers are looking for flexibility. If your industry isn’t designed this way, you have an opportunity for innovation in an effort to make the environment more flexible.

In the past five years, I haven’t worked for an organization that was rigid in the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office setting, nor have I been able to attract top talent to work in that rigidness. I had amazing talent who made it clear they wanted to work on my teams, but wanted to work remotely with flexible hours at times.

Employees want to be a part of a winning team, but there is nothing that says winning requires you to be at a desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I believe today's workers are innovative, and they want the flexibility of an innovative workplace. Create an environment that is flexible to their wants, not what you believe success needs to look like because of outdated norms.

If you are interested in applying this concept to your team, remember to:

• Discuss scoping around flexibility. Talk with your team about what they are looking for, and have a partnered conversation with shared accountability to make as much of it happen as possible. For example, if your team needs to be on-site on Wednesday mornings for a metrics huddle, then be clear that working in the office on Wednesdays is non-negotiable. But as you're having these conversations, remember to focus more on what can be done versus what can't.

• Be clear in your communications. Creating a successful flexible work environment requires easy-to-follow expectations, such as clear parameters of what's considered a timely email follow-up. For instance, one group I partnered with had a 48-hour email rule. Everyone was expected to respond with 48 hours to an email, whether they had an answer, so customers knew follow-up was happening.

These are just a couple of pieces, but they are some of the most vital for ensuring success when offering more flexibility in your workplace.

2. Challenging

While the current workforce wants a flexible work environment, they also need that work environment to be challenging.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a CEO of a midsize organization who shared a revelation with me: When his workforce shared they didn’t want to be in the office 60 hours a week, it wasn't because they didn't work hard but because they wanted a flexible workspace and challenging tasks. He shared that when this revelation came to him, he started challenging his leaders to transition the way they accomplished their business outcomes in order to meet the changing wants and desires of their team members. What his organization found was they were more productive with better business outcomes, and their team members embraced challenges in new ways.

I've observed team members want to do thought-provoking work. They want to seek out answers in innovative ways and work toward continuous improvement. People want to create, and when given the opportunity to do so, I believe amazing things, far surpassing the known norms, can come out of the challenges provided.

Leaders can provide their team members with more challenging opportunities by opening the door for them to work on something they aren't as familiar with but have expressed interest in. These are typically areas that might be related to the employee's strengths, but they haven't had the opportunity to venture into yet.

Another approach is offering team members the opportunity to solve a new problem. Leaders themselves often like to be the person solving an issue, but your team likely wants to jump in to help find the answer. Providing that opportunity allows for a different type of engagement from your team members.

3. Listening

While providing both a flexible and challenging work environment is crucial, I've found the biggest piece of creating an employee experience and engaging each team member is through listening. My favorite quote from leadership development expert Peter Drucker is the following: “Listening (the first competency of leadership) is not a skill, it is a discipline. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut.”

While Drucker’s words are easy to digest, the discipline is hard for many. When leaders listen, they are opening themselves up to explore what is being said and how they can ask better questions to help their employees seek answers themselves.

So, do more listening and less talking. You might want to provide all the answers. However, a more effective solution that helps you both listen and find answers is asking questions. This gives you the opportunity to listen, while also providing your team with the opportunity to explore, think critically and solve the problem.

I’ve worked with some leaders who have shared they believe providing the three areas listed above gives employees too much power. But, the workplace isn’t about power. I believe the workplace is about partnerships and fostering an environment that creates experiences for your employees and, in turn, your consumers. Listen to your employees' wants, and partner on developing the flexibility and challenges they are seeking and you’ll have potential employees knocking on the door regularly to be a part of your team.

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Do you design your organization as a place people want to engage in or as a place people need to be in? I believe a shift is coming forward in the way people are thinking about their potential next employers. With current unemployment rates lingering between 3.5 and 4%, many workers don't need to actively search for a job. But in my experience, those who do are searching regularly for a more engaging organization.

Engagement is critical, and many candidates today are basing their choice on which company fits their wants. With this shift, there are key areas employers should ensure are present and prevalent in their organizations' cultures if they intend to attract and retain a high-performing workforce. As a coach of organizational development, I've determined three keys you can incorporate into your company:

1. Flexibility

Job seekers are looking for flexibility. If your industry isn’t designed this way, you have an opportunity for innovation in an effort to make the environment more flexible.

In the past five years, I haven’t worked for an organization that was rigid in the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office setting, nor have I been able to attract top talent to work in that rigidness. I had amazing talent who made it clear they wanted to work on my teams, but wanted to work remotely with flexible hours at times.

Employees want to be a part of a winning team, but there is nothing that says winning requires you to be at a desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I believe today's workers are innovative, and they want the flexibility of an innovative workplace. Create an environment that is flexible to their wants, not what you believe success needs to look like because of outdated norms.

If you are interested in applying this concept to your team, remember to:

• Discuss scoping around flexibility. Talk with your team about what they are looking for, and have a partnered conversation with shared accountability to make as much of it happen as possible. For example, if your team needs to be on-site on Wednesday mornings for a metrics huddle, then be clear that working in the office on Wednesdays is non-negotiable. But as you're having these conversations, remember to focus more on what can be done versus what can't.

• Be clear in your communications. Creating a successful flexible work environment requires easy-to-follow expectations, such as clear parameters of what's considered a timely email follow-up. For instance, one group I partnered with had a 48-hour email rule. Everyone was expected to respond with 48 hours to an email, whether they had an answer, so customers knew follow-up was happening.

These are just a couple of pieces, but they are some of the most vital for ensuring success when offering more flexibility in your workplace.

2. Challenging

While the current workforce wants a flexible work environment, they also need that work environment to be challenging.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a CEO of a midsize organization who shared a revelation with me: When his workforce shared they didn’t want to be in the office 60 hours a week, it wasn't because they didn't work hard but because they wanted a flexible workspace and challenging tasks. He shared that when this revelation came to him, he started challenging his leaders to transition the way they accomplished their business outcomes in order to meet the changing wants and desires of their team members. What his organization found was they were more productive with better business outcomes, and their team members embraced challenges in new ways.

I've observed team members want to do thought-provoking work. They want to seek out answers in innovative ways and work toward continuous improvement. People want to create, and when given the opportunity to do so, I believe amazing things, far surpassing the known norms, can come out of the challenges provided.

Leaders can provide their team members with more challenging opportunities by opening the door for them to work on something they aren't as familiar with but have expressed interest in. These are typically areas that might be related to the employee's strengths, but they haven't had the opportunity to venture into yet.

Another approach is offering team members the opportunity to solve a new problem. Leaders themselves often like to be the person solving an issue, but your team likely wants to jump in to help find the answer. Providing that opportunity allows for a different type of engagement from your team members.

3. Listening

While providing both a flexible and challenging work environment is crucial, I've found the biggest piece of creating an employee experience and engaging each team member is through listening. My favorite quote from leadership development expert Peter Drucker is the following: “Listening (the first competency of leadership) is not a skill, it is a discipline. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut.”

While Drucker’s words are easy to digest, the discipline is hard for many. When leaders listen, they are opening themselves up to explore what is being said and how they can ask better questions to help their employees seek answers themselves.

So, do more listening and less talking. You might want to provide all the answers. However, a more effective solution that helps you both listen and find answers is asking questions. This gives you the opportunity to listen, while also providing your team with the opportunity to explore, think critically and solve the problem.

I’ve worked with some leaders who have shared they believe providing the three areas listed above gives employees too much power. But, the workplace isn’t about power. I believe the workplace is about partnerships and fostering an environment that creates experiences for your employees and, in turn, your consumers. Listen to your employees' wants, and partner on developing the flexibility and challenges they are seeking and you’ll have potential employees knocking on the door regularly to be a part of your team.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

Jared is a former VP of Talent Development and a certified coach in organizational development at St. Charles Healthcare....

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of leading business coaches and career coaches. Find out if you qualify at forbescoachesc...