By Blaine Bagley, Senior Vice President, Operations at EnerBank USA
As leaders, we want the people who work for us to understand and share our vision, truly buy into the company mission, and be inspired to deliver a high standard of customer service. In the end, the employees themselves want that same feeling of cohesion and belonging to something bigger than themselves.
A big part of that is making sure they each have access to consistent brand messages that they can communicate to others as they make a real impact, and thus feel confident in their job performance. When your people are engaged like that — well, it’s a beautiful thing.
But it doesn’t always happen that way…and if it does happen, I can assure you it didn’t get that way by accident. So, what are the secrets for bringing your employees to a place where they’re fully engaged?
What is Engagement?
BlessingWhite, an employee engagement and leadership development consulting company, uses a scale to classify employee engagement. It’s based on two factors: the level of employee contribution and the level of employee individual satisfaction. They say that a highly-engaged employee delivers what their employer needs, while getting what they want from the relationship. Likewise, the less-engaged employee is missing some characteristic of those two measurements.
As a leader in your home improvement company, your challenge is to help control this dynamic, so that all your employees can be more fully engaged and help drive forward your mission. But it takes more than a survey and a couple of HR initiatives to get to that point. To really develop sustainable employee engagement, you have to make it a priority every day — and that priority needs to begin long before an employee even joins your team. That means making sure you find the right individuals to work for your company.
Typically, prospecting for new employees is done online, with offline methods becoming less and less of a factor in the hiring process. At EnerBank USA®, we spend a lot of time evaluating candidates to make sure they’re a good fit and positioned for success before they even start working for us. We write our job postings with specific wording to attract the very best candidates. Our rigorous application process forms the foundation for our onboarding success.
We place a lot of emphasis on the best candidates’ experience and skills, but also spend time focusing on how well they would fit within our culture. We inquire about how their strengths match a particular department, how they may complement existing personnel, and how we might facilitate their education and training to overcome any professional weak spots. The answers to these questions can speak volumes about how well-engaged they might be once hired.
Further, assisting potential candidates to be successful in their job creates a positive reputation for us in the community, which helps us attract a better caliber of candidates. We also get quite a few referrals from employees and other associates of EnerBank. When our workforce is successful and satisfied, and believes in the company, we have lower employee turnover. Low turnover and high referrals form a positive cycle and strengthen employee engagement even more.
We mainly focus our hiring efforts on people who are seeking a career, rather than just a job. Career-minded employees seek to improve, and we all benefit from that attitude, so we offer our people many different kinds of educational opportunities and chances to grow within EnerBank, moving from position to position or department to department. And it’s not just on-the-job training, but broader educational opportunities as well. We want employees who want to grow, and who have a solid plan for their own working future, even before they arrive at EnerBank.
In the home improvement sector, strong training programs are vital to retaining good employees. The same is true for us at EnerBank. In fact, we really just want good, motivated people who are excited about bettering themselves and have a career plan. We don’t mind if someone who works for us for a while decides to go back to school. We leave that door open for them to come back to us later, because rehiring limits training when they come back.
Achieving True Engagement
Once you get the right people on board, it’s important to nurture and grow them right from the start, whether they’re joining your team fresh out of high school, after college, or later on in an established career. At EnerBank, many of our employees begin by working in our call center. We purposefully develop them, and as a result, many of them stay with us for years. We actually have several vice presidents and managers who started in entry-level positions and worked their way up — because they were engaged.
Be sure to treat your college students well. Most of these hard-working people have lofty goals and meaningful aspirations. If you can help them see a future with your company — and give them real opportunities to grow — they’ll stick around. EnerBank offers generous tuition reimbursement — beyond the federal tax-exempt limit, in fact. With our plan, employees can study any subject they want, not just courses related to bank operations. We also do our best to accommodate school schedules, and have learned that if an employee can juggle work and school, they have a solid work ethic and stand a better chance of succeeding with the company.
A recent law school graduate joined EnerBank a while ago, starting in our call center. This person eventually moved up through the ranks, and is now a vice president in our compliance department. Another employee has worked in almost every department at EnerBank, earning two masters degrees along the way. Now he’s working in a great position leading our change management area.
We’ve discovered there are two key aspects to retaining and engaging employees. First, brand clarity and transparency. Being able to clearly articulate the company’s purpose and differentiators provides a level of understanding that empowers employees to boldly drive positive change, because they understand the essential drivers of the company’s success and they’re invested in being a part of that.
The second aspect is accountability from the CEO all the way down to the freshest face. Accountability can be contagious, creating opportunities for each employee and team to own success and failure by owning the outcomes. This changes the internal dynamic from something bureaucratic to something that might be called a “commonality of purpose.”
In the end, encouraging engaged employees is about hiring the right people to begin with, then nurturing those employees via education and promotion opportunities. If you support the whole employee in their lives, not just their job — such as educational opportunities and career development — you’ll find that engagement is reciprocated.