HR Blog

Being Thankful for Engaging Employees

11/01/2017 | Dee Yingst

When you look back on your career, who are you thankful to have met?

I'd like to share a story with you.

So there was this 19-year old employee who was only with the company a few months; she was hired temp to perm to do data entry. Single mom. No college degree. She was armed only with a business school certificate and a drive to succeed. One day that rough-around-the-edges employee went walking around the building. The goal was to learn what other people do and how they got there. She stopped at a woman's cubicle (we'll call her Judy) and asked her quite bluntly, 'Who are you? What do you do?'  To Judy's credit, she stopped and introduced herself and talked to that brash 19 year old. Not only was Judy very welcoming, she gave that 19-year old some really wise counsel… that I still use to this day.

Yep, you guessed it. I'm that brash 19-year old. At least I was, a very long time ago.  I am very thankful for Judy's welcome, her willingness to listen, and her advice.

So why share this story? Because I want you to think about what your own reaction might have been if I had approached you.  Would you have taken the time to talk to me or would you have just dismissed me as some annoying kid not worth your time?

There's so much talk about employees in general being unhappy, millennials being uninterested, and technology replacing humanity…..but there's not enough talk about what each and every one of us can do in our own small space of the world to make a difference.

No single function touches every employee in an organization quite the way HR does, giving HR a tremendous opportunity:  to model the welcoming culture of an organization and show employees that the company is genuinely interested in their success.

Employers, there is no silver bullet, no magic elixir, no add-water-and-stir remedy to creating engaged employees.  It's really about the culture of your organization.

Engaging employees is more than "employee of the month" awards and trinkets and luncheons; it's recognizing the individuality and the humanity of each employee.

I'm not saying that luncheons, trinkets and other recognition programs are bad – just that it's important to understand their limitations.  If your employees don't feel respected and valued, all the luncheons and trinkets in the world won't change that. You don't need a fancy rewards program to engage your employees – you need people like Judy who embrace and embody a culture of welcome.

It doesn't cost a thing to address an employee by name or to pause for a second to ask them how they're doing; to look them in the eye and actually see them. Managers, does it really take that much time to pop into your staff's workspaces and ask them how their day is going and what you can do to help?  Long term employees, is it really that hard to pause and introduce yourself to a new face in your department?

HR professionals you have the keys to the kingdom – you can model the kind of behavior that you want to see emulated throughout your organization.

Ask yourself: Are you modeling the behavior that you want the rest of the company to follow or are you staying hidden in your office only emerging when there's a problem?  Are you welcoming new employees and acknowledging your tenured workers? Are you visible in the organization in good times as well as bad ones?

It is imperative that HR does not lose sight of what the "H" stands for in "Human Resources." If HR isn't doing it, then how can you expect anyone else to??

So this Thanksgiving I challenge you to take a few minutes to consider who in your past helped you get to where you are. Who listened to you? Who acknowledged you? Who made you feel valued? Now go and be the answer to those questions for someone else.