Employee engagement

Apr 06, 2020

Engage the people at your firm and they will tell you all you need to know to recruit, retain, and utilize every employee.

It can be tough to know exactly what people are looking for in a company. Work-life balance, flexible schedules, job security, stability, and 401(k) are among additional benefits people are interested in. When it comes to your firm, I would argue that there is no better way to find out what people want than by engaging your employees. Nobody knows your company better than they do. Find out what they like, don’t like, and are indifferent about, including those additional benefits your firm offers.

Employee engagement surveys are a great place to start. Whether it’s administered through a third party or done internally, these surveys are a great way to engage everyone in your firm no matter what role they play. Getting 100 percent participation in the survey would be great, but the reality is this can be very hard to achieve, especially in a larger firm. You need to set realistic participation goals and encourage your employees to participate until you get there. Let your employees know how important it is that you hear from them and that this is their chance to have their voice heard.

Asking the right questions is key to getting the best information from your employees. You can keep these general to get a broad sense of how people feel about certain parts of your company (mission, vision, goals, culture, benefits, etc.), or you can ask specific questions that may have to do with a policy your firm implemented recently. That is a good way to understand if that policy has provided the benefits your firm was hoping for. Having measurable questions is an effective way to track your progress. While hearing comments about your firm is great, it can be hard to quantify those results. Having the right mix of quantitative and qualitative questions is very important.

Engaging your employees is the first step, but successful companies will go beyond that. They will utilize “people analytics,” using data gathered to put better policies in place, predict internal mobility, and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, in addition to other HR data. A LinkedIn study recently found that half of those surveyed said “their company was good at collecting internal data but only 39 percent felt confident analyzing it. Using data to solve existing problems? Thirty-seven percent. And using it to solve future problems? A mere 29 percent.” There is a tremendous opportunity to use data beyond hitting sales numbers or for performance reviews. We can utilize it to make great places to work for employees and Zweig Group is working to help firms in the AEC industry better utilize the data they are gathering internally.

While utilizing and acting on the information and data gathered is very important, companies still have to use discretion on which policies or benefits to implement. While many employees will suggest strong new benefits such as a new 401(k) program or ownership opportunities, other suggestions may not be as useful. We have seen ideas such as game rooms, nap rooms, and extra monitors so employees can enjoy Netflix in the background at work. While these might sound like fun ideas, firms need to decide whether or not these things will really make the overall culture better or if they’re just fringe benefits that don’t belong in the workplace. That is the line successful companies walk. Know what will truly make your company better and what belongs in the “Dreams” suggestion box.

The next important part of engaging your employees is repeating the process. Whether it is bi-annually, annually, or however you choose, you need to make sure your employee engagement isn’t a one-off exercise. You need to be able to measure how your actions, from your first engagement, have affected your employees. There is no way to know if new programs have been positive or negative unless you reengage and re-analyze the new information. Don’t call it good after engaging with your employees one time.

As data becomes a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives, businesses, and business strategies, we have to think about how and what we are doing to utilize it. It starts with having an apparatus to collect it: Employee surveys. You then need to know how to utilize that data – people analytics – followed by implementation of new ideas, and then reengagement. Engage the people at your firm and they will tell you all you need to know to recruit, retain, and utilize each and every employee.

Kyle Ahern is awards manager at Zweig Group. Contact him at kahern@zweiggroup.com.

June 1, 2020 deadline: The Best Firms To Work For award recognizes the top AEC firms in the U.S. and Canada based on their workplace practices, employee benefits, employee retention rates, and much more. Entry includes access to the most affordable employee survey in the industry. Participating in the award process in an effective and efficient way to gain employee insight. Participating firms receive a summary report of their employees' survey responses. Click here to read the full issue.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.