Often I’m asked where all the great talent is, and why an organization is having difficulty in finding and keeping great people. It’s a great question that can have a range of answers, but they usually all point to a common denominator - the culture of the company and how behaviors, policies, and processes impact employee engagement, and not in a good way.

There are hundreds of articles and statistics out there that demonstrate the low levels of engagement in many of today’s workplaces, and the reasons why many organizations still struggle with creating great people-focused companies. Too often I sense that business owners are rushing around just trying to get business done and reactively addressing people issues rather than recognizing that investing time up front in creating an engaging and inspiring workplace has significant impacts longer term. Studies show that companies with engaged employees outperform their competition by 147% in earnings. That’s significant.

There are great employees out there, and they work for great employers. Companies that are struggling in this area need to focus on their people practices and look to identify and remove barriers that suffocate employee growth, learning opportunities, work-life balance or integration, recognition, and open communication. Employees are not thriving in jobs where they don’t feel valued, and many are not hesitant to jump ship if a better opportunity comes along. And those who don’t make the leap end up disengaged and not contributing as much as they can or should be. And most damaging of all, they share this information openly on sites such as Glassdoor. Savvy job seekers check a company’s reputation and if it’s sketchy, they’re gone.

Creating engaging workplaces takes time, and starts with getting a deeper understanding of how your employees currently view your organization. Identifying key pain points will help build a roadmap for the organization to begin addressing priorities in terms of changing the culture. It’s not a top-down exercise, but an inclusive and collaborative one, and one that needs to be communicated to staff. Show them survey results; ask their opinions; form work groups to collaborate on initiatives; report out regularly on progress. It may not be easy, and make take some time, but the return on your investment will be noticeable. Engaged employees are more productive and more likely to stay, resulting not only in increased earnings from production, but reduced costs associated with employee turnover. Wouldn’t you say it’s worth it?

Jana Tulloch, CPHR, is the Founder of HR firm Tulloch Consulting,and provides strategic HR advice to clients on a range of topics including employee engagement.

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