Becoming an Employer of Choice: The Employee Engagement Journey

The employee engagement journey goes through stages of pre-hire awareness, orientation, honeymoon, comfort, discomfort, and resolution, with the employee becoming an advocate for the employer in the end. After the honeymoon stage and beginning with the comfort stage, you can expect your employees to periodically go through a cycle of comfort-discomfort-resolution. But an employee who reaches the advocacy stage trusts management will help find a resolution, so the discomfort stage doesn’t become a catalyst for leaving the company or fomenting discontent in the workforce

How your leadership manages the discomfort and resolution stages directly influences the ability of your organization to maintain itself as an employer of choice. Your managers can do all the right things early in the employee’s employment process and lose the employee during the critical later stages. These are employees who either leave or, worse, stay and never become advocates. Building employee engagement during the entire employee engagement journey plays a big role in becoming an employer of choice. Now it’s time to talk about keeping employees engaged as they move between the stages of the employee engagement journey. 

Nurturing the Employee Engagement Journey

Engaging employees is a process, but maintaining it and becoming an employer of choice requires nurturing engagement throughout the employee’s work life cycle. A Microsoft survey found that 40 percent of the global workforce planned on leaving their job in 2021, and that trend will continue into 2022 and perhaps beyond. A Korn Ferry survey searched for the top reasons people leave their jobs, and 32 percent of those who quit or plan to quit said the culture where they worked pushed them to resign. Think of it this way: Almost a third of the workforce is dissatisfied enough to leave their jobs. 

What exactly does it mean to become an employer of choice? Jennifer Orechwa, Director, Business Development at IRI Consultants, addressed that question by discussing the criteria common to employers that talent wants to work for, and once employed, want to stay. Of course, an employer of choice successfully recruits and retains employees, but the conversation is more expansive. The type of employee experience a person has during the employee journey is heavily dependent on the organization’s culture, which is built on the quality of your leadership’s communication in the proactive era of employee relations. Everything is integrated. 

Almost one third of the workforce is dissatisfied enough to leave their jobs. #EmployeeEngagement matters more than you think! #employerofchoice

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Becoming an Employer of Choice

Being an employer of choice indicates your organization has created a positive employee engagement journey for the person from the beginning (pre-hire) to the end (becoming an advocate) and through periodic cycles of discomfort and resolution. It’s unrealistic to think your most engaged employees will never encounter serious issues at work, and the strength of the employee engagement level determines whether they remain advocates. “The work of building employee engagement is never completed,” says Orechwa, “and employers need to take a long-view of the employee experience if they want to become and remain an employer of choice.” 

When employee engagement is good, there is low turnover because your workers find satisfaction in their work, career opportunities, and relationships with their managers and supervisors. The Conference Board survey reported job satisfaction in 2020 was at 56.9 percent, despite a pandemic and layoffs. The reason was companies made more effort to support employee well-being. However, there were specific categories in which job satisfaction declined, and they included the potential for future growth and spending on employee training 

Employee Advocates Developed Through Continuous Employee Engagement 

Employees will only become advocates for your business when you understand and meet their needs during their journey, and you can only discover those needs through communication. Employees who become advocates communicate to others, inside and outside the organization, the positives of working with the employer and help coworkers deal with any negatives in a productive manner. Employee advocates bring enormous benefits to your business which in turn strengthens your position even more as an employer of choice. 

Advocates are often thought of as mostly people who promote and support your products and services and increase brand visibility. That’s a limited view. Employees who go full cycle in the employee journey and become advocates offer your organization much more. They are employees who:  

  • Help maintain good workforce morale 
  • Contribute to maintaining a positive culture, supporting leadership efforts to build a culture with intent 
  • Promote your company to job candidates 
  • Promote your company on social media, attracting job applicants and customers 
  • Become thought leaders in your workplace by sharing knowledge 
  • Are powerful positive links between coworkers and management 
  • Support management decision-making  
  • Help the organization stay union-free by demonstrating the advantages of working for the organization  

Employees will only reach this desirable state of value creation when your leaders are skilled communicators. It’s tempting to think employee engagement is mostly dependent on leadership decision-making, but the best decisions are made when positive employee relations exist. 

employee engagement journey

Communication Forms the Linkages in the Employee Engagement Journey 

The employee journey is mostly about the quality of communication between your leaders and employees and between employee advocates and internal and external people. Getting to the point of advocacy requires effective communication between your managers and supervisors and their staff members all the time, not just at particular points in time. Another way of saying this is that leadership communication skills must be as strong at stage one of pre-hire awareness as they are at the last stage at which the employee becomes an advocate. 

The role of communication as a strategy for developing strong employee engagement is at the core of becoming an employer of choice. For example: 

  • Leaders strive to move employees forward along the employee journey by helping them meet their needs, but it takes communication skills, like active listening, to identify those needs.  
  • Employees succeed in a positive corporate culture, and communication between management and employees influences the type of culture that develops. 
  • Recruiters engage job candidates through positive communication. 
  • Key leaders utilize internal channels to communicate with employees regularly. 
  • Inclusion of diverse people is supported through honest internal conversations and inclusive engagement opportunities. 
  • Continuous learning and development opportunities are offered to employees, leading to career discussions. 
  • Quality communication tools are utilized, like digital communications, to ensure all employees are engaged in conversations and training. 
  • Employees are recognized in meaningful ways. 
  • Regular one-on-one conversations between employees and their supervisors take place, humanizing communication in the digital age. 

#Leadership #communication skills must be as strong at stage 1 of pre-hire awareness as they are at the last stage at which the employee becomes an advocate. #employeeengagement 

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It’s the quality of your organization’s communication with job candidates and employees that determines factors like the rate of employee retention and productivity, and employee loyalty, trust in management, pride, and relationships with management. Communication influences all of these and determines the strength of employee engagement.  

Good Communication Needed at Every Stage 

So, low employee engagement and a failure to help employees reach the advocacy stage are due to communication failures at a particular stage of the employee journey. For example, a person is recruited and discovers the promises made during pre-hire about career opportunities were not realistic. One of the most common reasons employees mentioned during the Amazon union organizing campaign for pursuing unionization is they were told there would be advancement opportunities which they say never materialized after hiring due to a lack of available lead positions. Some employees found other jobs as a result. 

Did the hiring manager exaggerate the possibilities, or did the employee interpret something the hiring manager said the wrong way? Either way, employee turnover at a later date was increased through a communication misunderstanding at the first stage of the employee journey. The job candidate was engaged early in the journey through orientation and enjoyed the honeymoon and comfort stages. Then an employee reaches the discomfort stage in which he or she is not satisfied with the ways things are going. It could be a workload or training issue, toxic department culture, or dissatisfaction with career progression, for example. At that point, the employee is disengaged and looking for another job, joining the “Resignation Nation.” 

In another example, an employee needs new skills training to balance a heavier workload and needs supervisor help with finding a resolution. The supervisor doesn’t recognize the need because there’s a communication breakdown. At every stage of the employee journey, a communication issue can impact employee engagement.  

The Impact of Good Leadership on Employee Engagement

Business leaders get busy juggling heavy workloads, and the one-on-one conversations, internal social media postings, recognition messages, and weekly performance feedback sessions fall by the wayside. The communication issue may develop at the beginning, middle, or end of the employee journey. The end result is an employee who either never completes the journey and leaves or a disengaged employee who stays and shares unhappiness with others and may even decide it’s time to get a union involved.

It’s frequently reported that half of the employees leave because of their manager. Leadership skills training is essential to employee retention. Speaker and Leadership Coach Marcel Schwantes said the four most important traits of managers are the following. They are: 

  • Honest, authentic, and transparent communication with employees builds trust. 
  • Supportive, showing an interest in their employee’s jobs and career aspirations. 
  • Able to leverage close relationships with employees by learning their strengths and natural talents and using the knowledge to help them develop. 
  • Able to listen and respond with empathy. 

All four of these traits depend are needed to engage team members, and they depend on the ability of leaders to communicate well.  

employee engagement

Developing and Maintaining Employee Engagement 

Developing and maintaining employee engagement is an actionable process. Your skilled leadership communicators take steps like: 

  • Making it easy for employees to communicate on an as-needed basis 
  • Communicating the organization’s mission, values, goals, and strategies and how the employee’s work contributes to the success  
  • Getting employee feedback as a source of information and status check 
  • Conducting periodic employee surveys to measure engagement 
  • Asking employees to share their views (employee voice) on their workplace and employer brand 
  • Asking employees what they need in the way of training, tools, and resources to do their best work 
  • Through transparency, ensuring employees feel secure in their positions, so they aren’t fearful of job loss 
  • Utilizing communication skills to support a positive culture 
  • Publicly recognizing and rewarding employees 
  • Personalizing communication through various communication channels, in addition to general communication 
  • Engaging employees in discussions about innovation, reaching new markets, and management decisions 

Sustaining Employee Engagement is a Process Never Completed 

Good leaders never lose sight of the fact employee engagement, a critical element of positive personal relationships must be sustained. It’s not something achieved and considered finished. Your leaders must utilize communication to develop and maintain employee engagement every day, adapting the communication strategy to the stage of the employee engagement journey. It’s easy to slip into the “I’m too busy” mode and let communication needs fall by the wayside, dragging down your positive employee relations strategy. That never works in the long run for the employee, the leader, or the organization.  

Projections, Inc. is ready and able to help your leaders become great communicators and develop a powerful employee engagement strategy. The result is a motivated, engaged workforce that proudly advocates for your business and business leaders. Connect with our team of experts, today to discuss the solution that's right for you!

About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Projections’ CEO and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.