An employee engagement cheat sheet: How to avoid the “I quit” email

“To whom it may concern,

Effective immediately, I am terminating my employment.”

After nearly two years on the job, that’s how Valerie left the company. With an email to her boss, sent at 6:02 am the day she was due back from vacation.  The email was addressed “To Whom It May Concern,” but the only people receiving it were her supervisor and a representative from HR. She knew who it concerned, but at that moment, Valerie didn’t care.

She was frustrated. There were no long-term prospects for advancement, and she didn’t feel that her hard work was appreciated.

At first, her supervisor was confused. Valerie wasn’t the first one to put in their resignation; there was a bit of a revolving door that had come to be the norm. But everyone else had given two weeks’ notice and talked about their new jobs. With Valerie, there was only an email coming from nowhere, shaking the foundations of the team with her unexpected departure.

In retrospect, there had been warning signs that led them all to the moment she hit “send.”

Employee engagement is a spectrum. On one end, employees are actively engaged as productive members of the team. On the other end, they engage in toxic levels of disengagement where they do as little as possible. Most employees fall at various places on that spectrum, depending on the circumstances.

One of the many challenges leaders face is keeping their staff on the actively engaged end of that spectrum on a regular basis. If you let yourself get distracted by all the other things on your plate, employee disengagement is one of the issues that can topple everything else.

So how do you address it? Is there a cheat sheet for keeping people happy and engaged at work?

Believe it or not, such a thing exists. It’s called a personality assessment.

Your credit union is a dynamic business made up of individuals completing a variety of important tasks. A personality assessment, such as the Omnia Profile, evaluates the strengths and challenge areas of everyone on your team. You effectively harness the power of insight to help you properly motivate, engage and retain your staff; a little insight can go a long way.

One of the areas measured can be summarized as personal priorities and a person’s comfort with risk to achieve them. Knowing if your employee is more motivated by personal achievement or group accomplishment can help you establish goals and incentives.

Another area where you can engage people based on assessment data is knowing how your employees like to recharge. This is often simplified as social extroversion or analytical introversion. As a manager, it is beneficial to have an idea if an employee needs ample time and space to focus or if they do better with an interactive environment.

You should also consider pace: are they more comfortable working on one project at a time, or do they excel at multitasking? With this data, you can determine how comfortable they are at handling unexpected priority shifts or focusing on a repetitive, complex task that no one else wants to tackle.

The final area many assessments cover is an individual’s need for structure and natural attention to detail. Some people are big-picture thinkers who might see things others miss in high-level overviews, whereas others are great at digging into the minutiae and making sure every detail is in place when executing a plan.

All these opposing traits are valuable and contribute to a branch that runs smoothly. If you know who has them and how to make the best use of them, you can optimize daily performance while keeping people at the actively engaged side of the spectrum.

When you know these things about people, they become easier to understand, and their needs are easier to meet. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with an assessment as a part of your hiring process. You could have someone who aces the interview by being outgoing while lacking the attention to detail to properly do the job. Or you might have someone who is driven by individual, performance-based incentives working as a teller where those opportunities don’t present themselves. On the other hand, that same person might be perfect for sales. Valerie wouldn’t have liked sales, but she needed more opportunities for advancement than her position was able to provide. If the supervisor had known that earlier on, there may have been other areas within the company where Valerie’s drive would have been a benefit. Having an assessment tool at your disposal while considering candidates can stave off the need to figure out how to engage them later.

Even if you don’t use the assessment until later, it is a valuable resource for making your employees feel appreciated. One of the biggest pieces of advice you often hear about engaging your staff is to publicly praise them for their accomplishments.

That’s great in theory but misses an important point – not everyone likes public attention. Valerie needed public acknowledgement of her accomplishments. But for her coworker Sarah, their supervisor found that she avoided being “called out” in front of her peers. Sarah preferred private conversations and emails. Given the differences, their supervisor started leaning toward Sarah’s preference as the default; it seemed easier than customizing her approach for each individual. She didn’t foresee that Valerie would see that lack of public acknowledgement as confirmation that she wasn’t appreciated.

Knowing who needs what and why can help you take the right actions with each member of your team. It can be the difference between an engaged team working to make the company better, and an email at 6:02 am.

Wendy Sheaffer

Wendy Sheaffer

Chief Product Officer at The Omnia Group, an employee assessment firm providing the power of behavioral insight to help organizations make successful hires and develop exceptional employees. For more information, ... Web: Details