For HNM Systems President and CEO Heather Moyer and Managing Director Kristin Schaer, employee engagement is far more than an organizational goal and runs deeper than even the core value of being “Relentlessly People Driven.” It was the impetus for HNM Systems coming into existence.
Moyer says a lack of leadership in employee engagement, particularly in tech staffing, was a major motivator when she set out to build the business. “Human capital is the #1 indicator of any business success. Understanding and valuing employees’ talents and and fit, and recognizing how they contribute to business is imperative.”
In staffing for this industry, in particular, Moyer and Schaer noticed it was rare to prioritize employees. It was common for contractors to go on an assignment and not to hear from their staffing agency. “We create a relationship with our employees. We are there for them. We add the human touch factor.”
Why Is Employee Engagement Important?
To an uninformed and outdated person, employee engagement might seem to be a nebulous concept with impact only on the equally vague concept of company culture. But Moyer and Schaer’s insights are in line with a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that there were hardly any factors as impactful as employee engagement on positive business outcomes.
Jim Harter, PhD, Chief Scientist at Gallup Research tells the Harvard Business Review, “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.”
This is where the rubber meets the road and the emotional elements begin to translate to dollars and percentages. When workers “own the result of their work” they are more devoted to seeing the success of their work, which ultimately translates to the success of the business.
“When employees are engaged, they display high levels of enthusiasm, energy, and motivation, which translates into higher levels of job performance, creativity, and productivity. This means not only higher revenues and profits for organizations, but also higher levels of well-being for employees,” according to the Harvard Business Review.
Improved health and reduced turnover in a workforce means lowered expenses on insurance payouts and recruitment and training of new staff, for example. At HNM Systems, Moyers reports that clients are able to retain employees at 90% or greater.
A 2017 Gallup study found that “Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability. Engaged workers also report better health outcomes.”
How Does Employee Engagement Impact Customers?
Richard Branson famously said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” And it’s this sort of philosophy that has helped Moyer and Schaer build a business with happy employees who made the business successful by making customers happy.
The benefits of an engaged workforce trickles down to customers. “Employees who are engaged consistently show up to work and have a greater commitment to quality and safety. Understandably, these employees also help their organizations improve customer relationships and obtain impressive organic growth. Highly engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales,” according to Gallup.
A major reason for this positive impact on customer satisfaction is that engaged employees are dedicated to the result, not a prescriptive means of achieving that result. That means a commitment to finding a solution for the customer that suits them, not just on completing a task. This perspective is critical, because an unsatisfying experience for a customer could yield a deadly review.
“In today’s economy and business climate, organizations need employees who are energetic, motivated, curious, and open to new ways of doing things to achieve ultimate customer satisfaction,” says the National Business Research Institute. And satisfied customers have the potential to translate to much more than a paid invoice. “Satisfied customers cost less to serve, are repeat customers, and are more profitable customers for the organization.”
Make Employee Engagement a Priority
Research is showing that, though many small efforts can be made to inject positive experiences at work, making the work itself meaningful has the greatest impact on employee engagement. In the 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, analysts suggest moving the focus from employee engagement to employee experience, viewing employees as you would a customer.
“Employee experience is a bottom-up concept—where processes, places, and workflow are designed around employees’ preexisting tendencies. Employee experience recognize[s] that the employee, not the employer, must be at the center.”
But as much as organizations are recognizing the importance of engagement and experience, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to tackle it. The report also notes, “Yet as important as it is, only 9 percent of our respondents believed they were very ready to address this issue, making it a massive priority for organizations around the world.”
It is so important, in fact, that research and advisory company Gartner predicts that “By 2020, 20% of organizations will include employee engagement improvement as a shared performance objective for HR and IT groups.” Businesses are learning what critical measure of their health employee engagement is, and as we learn more about how to measure it, engagement is quickly becoming a high priority.
How Can You Improve Employee Engagement?
At HNM, both concepts of engagement and experience are baked into everything they do. “Though it’s a job, we’re doing life with these people,” Moyer says. “We ensure our people are well taken care of. We are the advocate of our people, we take that responsibility seriously.”
A primary way HNM advocates on behalf of its full-time and contract employees is with a formalized process of continually checking in. Providing regular opportunities for feedback, both ways, is key to employee engagement, according to a survey of 1,000 American workers and human resource professionals conducted by USATODAY.com and the American Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which found that communication between employees and management (62%) was third in the top aspects that are “very important” to worker satisfaction.
HNM has also dedicated a committee to evaluating their engagement with staff. Moyer says, “The consultant/employee development committee’s sole purpose is to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our employees. It monitors trends and patterns, and advises on what they believe we’re missing or could be doing better. Committee provides solutions to executive team to make sure we implement and stay ahead of the competition.”
Together with other non-standard efforts like voluntary time off to do community work, and various wellness programs, not to mention other individualized personal touches, HNM has made it their business to take care of their people. And they continue to evaluate where they are in terms of employee engagement and what they can and should do more.
“These past eight years, we’re focused on career path for our full-time and contract employees. When they have a contract coming to an end, we work with them to find a new assignment that is something they’re passionate about and ultimately aligns with their career path, says Moyer.
“Our product is people, so our people are our #1 priority.”