The bottom line: what’s the business case for engagement

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Woody Allen once said: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” If this was ever true, it certainly isn’t in today’s economy. As all good HR managers know, success requires a lot more than good attendance. Yet, senior managers across Canada are often still resistant to the concept of spending money on engagement initiatives.  

Employee value propositions, recognition initiatives, talent value chains – it can all seem a bit “touchy feely HR” to the accounting and finance teams. So when you’re trying to put in place best practice for employee engagement, how do you sell it?

“When you can prove the ROI on engagement, that to me is the Holy Grail,” says Kevin Sheridan, engagement expert and author of Building a Magnetic Culture. “When [financial people] see that retention costs are going down, turnover has gone down, we’ve seen advancements in customer service and better innovation. If you build engagement, safety incidents go down and you see a safer work environment.”

A Wharton School of Business study compared companies in the top 10% for engagement with those who were rated as average. The “best in class” companies made three and a half times more money than those that were average, Sheridan says.

Sheridan spoke about engagement best practice and the bottom line to HR pros from Toronto and around the region at Ceridian’s Executive Speaking Series. The links to productivity, retention, safety and customer service are undeniable, he says.

With a focus on the effects of diversity and inclusion, Sheridan told attendees that a strong correlation between companies with high engagement, and those with high diversity and inclusion motivated him to study the link.

Workplaces that focus not only on diversity, but also inclusion by ensuring everyone on the team feels welcome and appreciated for their differences have higher rates of engagement overall. But there are other challenges to diverse workplaces. One factor of diversity affecting many HR teams was the struggle of managing up to four different generations within any one workplace.

“I still see a one-size-fits-all approach for engagement but unfortunately that does not work for a diverse workforce,” Sheridan says.

For example, Gen Y workers – usually defined as those born between 1980 and the early 1990s – reportedly want considerably more feedback and acknowledgement than their older colleagues. One study showed these workers wanted feedback an average of seven times a day. Remembering to reply to every email with a personal thank you could go a long way towards making those workers feel appreciated.

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