Addressing 2015’s No. 1 business challenge:

How are you keeping employees engaged and on board?

Addressing 2015’s No. 1 business challenge: How are you keeping employees engaged and on board?

Posted by Robin Erickson on May 7, 2015.

Culture and engagement issues rose sharply in prominence to become the No. 1 challenge identified in the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report. Nearly nine out of 10 (87 percent) of the 3,300+ business and HR leaders surveyed consider culture and engagement issues to be “important; 50 percent say they’re “very important” — double the results in 2014. While two-thirds (66 percent) of HR respondents say they’re working on the problem by updating their retention and engagement strategy, the remainder (34 percent) report their strategy is outdated or nonexistent.

This is troubling, particularly as a growing economy and lower unemployment may already be triggering a “resume tsunami” as employees voluntarily explore their options for working elsewhere. In fact, employment statistics show a near perfect negative (-96%) correlation between low unemployment and high “quit level” among surveyed employees from January 2001 to January 2015 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Quit Level of Employees vs. Unemployment Rate1


Most organizations seem to be unable to create the kind of magnetic culture that both attracts new employees and continually attracts current employees. A 2013 study by the Gallup polling organization reports that only 13 percent of the global workforce is engaged (while almost double that number [24 percent] are actively disengaged!).2 Upwards of half the workforce would not recommend their employer to their peers.3

These are daunting deficits to overcome, which is perhaps why that one-third of organizations in our Global Human Capital Trends study are operating with an outdated or no retention and engagement strategy. But doing nothing is not a sustainable approach, particularly given the fundamental changes occurring in the nature of work and the workforce (for example, open talent economy, overwhelmed employees, Millennials’ search for more meaning in their work, and other factors noted in this discussion of the new world of work).

How is your organization addressing the issue? Have you considered these steps?

  • Lead from the top. Leaders tend to set the tone for and drive organizational culture. They should be held accountable for building a magnetic culture and engaging and retaining their teams. Organizations should also be looking to develop desirable traits in their leaders that can help support engagement and retention. For example, respondents to a TalentKeepers survey of over 600 organizations indicated that the leadership competency most beneficial to their organization is “building trust.” This finding was echoed in other TalentKeepers research into valued leadership attributes, in which more than 16,000 survey respondents listed Trust Builder, Communicator, and Talent Developer & Coach as their top three preferred leadership talents.4
  • Understand employee motivations. Do you know why employees choose to stay with you, or what might compel them to leave? Unlike an exit interview that takes place after an employee has already decided to leave (akin to closing the barn door after the horse has run away), a “stay interview” is a periodic check-in aimed at retaining valued employees. The employee and manager (or an HR rep) meet to discuss the employee’s view of his/her job and organization, understand what might motivate the employee to become even more deeply committed to the organization — or what might trigger a departure. You can read more about stay interviews online.5
  • Clean the glass. The Trends report notes that we live in a “Glassdoor era,” where an organization’s actions and decisions can be instantly posted and debated online by employees, candidates, and the public at large. I would argue it’s more like a “glass wall” — transparency is here to stay, and organizations should consider how to proactively encourage and leverage it to support their employment brand.
  • Measure the candidate experience. Given that transparency, an organization’s employment experience tends to extend farther than your current employees. While you should implement programs to evaluate and assess your organization’s culture and employee engagement levels, you should also measure the candidate experience. Candidates are not only potential employees (now or in the future), but may also be customers and are certainly capable of transparently sharing their experience interacting with your company with a wider audience — for better or worse. (See my previous post on candidate relationship management.) At the same time, you might also measure the hiring manager’s experience to potentially glean insights relevant to culture and engagement.

We’ll be exploring these issues of retention and engagement further in an upcoming Dbriefs webcast, Employee Engagement and Culture: The Naked Organization, on June 10, 2015. I hope you’ll join us to continue the discussion and share your own views and experiences on this growing and systemic challenge for many organizations worldwide.

Robin Erickson Robin Erickson, Ph.D., is the vice president for Talent Acquisition Research at Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP. She writes about various topics in talent acquisition, including integrating with talent management, enhancing quality of hire for critical jobs, leveraging social recruiting to build talent pools, and building a global recruiting function. Follow Robin on Twitter @RAEricksonPhD and visit her blog, Talent Magnetism.

1 Robin Erickson, Ph.D., “Hire Better to Retain Longer: How Your Employment Brand Helps,” Bersin by Deloitte, April 2015 with Bureau of Labor Statistics and St. Louis Federal Reserve Economic Data.
2 Steve Crabtree, “Worldwide, 13% of employees are engaged at work,” Gallup, October 8, 2013.
3 Bersin by Deloitte proprietary research conducted with Glassdoor, November 2014.
4 Talent Keepers “The Stay Interview” Webinar on March 11, 2015.
5 For example, see

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