Staffing World keynoter: Engage employees to drive business growth

By Bradley S. Buttermore
Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer

Companies who compete on price alone do so at their own folly, says Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, who told attendees at the 2015 Staffing World conference that employee engagement is vital in achieving sustainable organic growth.

Did you know that only about a third — 31.3 percent — of employees are engaged at work, according to a recent Gallup poll? Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.

This was an important message for those attending this year’s Staffing World conference — the largest convention and expo in the staffing, recruiting and workforce solutions industry.

Clifton talked about the links between human nature in the workplace, customer engagement and business outcomes, with an emphasis on the millennial workforce.

As companies reach out to hire millennials and as the use of temporary staffers becomes more commonplace, they need to learn how to engage these employees, Clifton said.

It used to be, among older generations, that their priorities were to work long hours, impress the boss and advance in their careers. They spent long hours to get ahead, sometimes to the detriment of their families.

Today’s millennial employees, Clifton noted, even those who are considered “temps,” want more than a paycheck. They want a purpose.

At about 83 million, millennials — those born roughly between 1982 and 2000 — have surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest generation. Creating strong bonds between employees, their managers and the company’s clients will inspire and motivate these younger workers.

Here are some of the reasons employee engagement today is so important, according to Gallup:

  1. Engaged employees are more productive and therefore more profitable to the employer.
  2. They are more customer-focused and more likely to withstand temptations to leave the company.
  3. Employee engagement is a strategic approach that can be linked to the achievement of corporate goals.

Today’s millennial is more heavily focused on work-life balance and seeks engagement at work, according to Clifton. It’s not simply about the size of the paycheck for these younger workers. They want to be valued, and they want to make a difference. They want their jobs to have meaning.

To be sure, employee engagement requires a year-round focus and a clear plan. It requires commitment.

In the past, it was common for employers to focus on fixing workers’ weaknesses. But the millennial generation wants their employers to build on their strengths. As you can see, it’s a major philosophical switch that businesses need to embrace, if they want to be successful in building employee engagement among this younger generation.

Call it touchy-feely if you want, but these workers want to be asked how they can contribute and add value to the company. They want bosses who are committed to developing and maximizing their skills and strengths. Employee engagement, Clifton says, isn’t about soft perks like free lunches.

Here are some things Gallup, in its report Empowering Engagement,” suggests to get the ball rolling:

  1. Develop a strategic plan with a detailed “people” strategy. Include embedding employee engagement metrics as part of the company’s scorecard.
  2. Establish a multiyear plan to grow employee engagement.
  3. Create and distribute clear, enterprise-wide employee engagement goals. For example, create clear channels of communication, so the employee knows what is expected of him or her.

I found Clifton’s keynote speech to be one of the highlights of this year’s Staffing World conference. An engaged employee can grow your company and make it more profitable, while an unengaged one could potentially sabotage it, even cause lost business. Which employee do you want on your staff?