As 2010 planning initiatives focus on strategies that will prepare companies to return to growth, leaders are looking for new ways to engage critical talent who execute key business priorities. The reason? Research by CLC Genesee, the HR consulting and employee survey division of The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), shows that companies with highly engaged employees demonstrate a 3-year revenue growth of 20.1%, compared to the 8.9% their industry peers will average. They also establish a 3-year EBITDA growth that is three times higher than their industry peers. What's more, CLC Genesee research shows that shifting an individual employee from low engagement to high engagement can increase discretionary effort level by 60%, improve employee performance by up to 20%, and significantly reduce recruitment costs. To achieve high levels of employee engagement, you need to first understand what they are thinking. One way to do this is to collect employee feedback through regular employee surveys. However, successful companies don't just rely on surveys as an event, but also steadily maintain communications and actions throughout the year to continually involve employees in driving positive change. One progressive and admired company leading the way is Google. Google firmly believes that feedback and discussion are an important part of doing business, and finds avenues for "Googlers" (as Google employees are called) to not just raise problems but help solve them. Google's annual survey is critical in gathering employee feedback on what is working well and what can be improved. Beyond the survey, Google uses a variety of regular feedback channels to encourage employee involvement and leverage its philosophy that more minds on an important issue are better than one. Strategy 1: Create a two-way dialogue on the most important issues on people's minds. Open dialogue between employees and leaders has always been an important part of Google's business operations. Every Friday, Google holds a forum called "Thank goodness it's Friday" (TGIF) to have an active conversation and answer questions ranging from product decisions and external news to internal people-related policies and decisions. This program initially started small with a few employees asking the founders questions on a Friday afternoon. As it evolved, TGIF now occurs almost every Friday, and the notes are distributed broadly across the company. Googlers use Google Moderator, an online tool to submit and vote on questions, and the top-voted questions are directly answered by Google's founders and executives. TGIF also includes live questions. High levels of employee and executive participation in TGIF contribute greatly to the culture of transparency and create a more intimate atmosphere despite the company's size of 20,000 employees. Strategy 2: Engage employees in solving problems, not just raising them. Google encourages employees to attend problem-solving sessions designed to resolve business challenges. Appropriately called "Fixits," these sessions can invite a specific group of employees or be open to anyone. One recent Fixit addressed particular concerns regarding career development in a growing business unit. For one week, suggestions for how to improve career development were collected via Moderator. Googlers submitted 51 ideas, in total receiving 5,615 votes, and the best three ideas were implemented. As employees were involved in the solutions, satisfaction in many areas in the annual employee survey improved one year later, including double-digit increases in the favorability scores on two career development items. As demonstrated by CLC Genesee research, increasing employee engagement has clear business benefits. Following the lead of companies such as Google, organizations can creatively find new ways to encourage and collect employee input on important issues to achieve measurable business outcomes. It's not about making employees feel involved; it's actually involving them. The result is more informed leaders, more engaged employees, and ultimately better decisions for a stronger business.
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