Feature Article - July/August 2010

An Inside Job

Employee Engagement Vital to Building Your Brand

By Deborah L. Vence

The secret to any company's success is to start from the inside out. That is, focus on your internal brand, a.k.a. employees, if you want to have half a chance at strengthening your external brand identity.

And, yes, the time is now.

Organizations no longer can afford to direct most or all of their attention to outside clients without enticing their own employees to stay engaged in their work and, thus, contribute to their company's bottom line.

In fact, the vast research that has been done in recent years on employee engagement proves that it is more important than ever before.

For example, a November 2009 study by Philadelphia-based Right Management, a talent and career management consulting firm, and a division of employment services firm, Manpower, revealed that 60 percent of employees plan to leave their jobs when the economy improves, and an additional one in four are networking and updating their resumes. The report was based on online surveys with 904 workers in North America.

Moreover, a June 2010 employee engagement study that queried tens of thousands of employees and was conducted by Washington-based Corporate Executive Board revealed that one-quarter of high-potential employees plan to leave their jobs within the year, compared with only 10 percent in 2006. The study also indicated that those high-potential employees increasingly are disengaged and actively seeking new employment opportunities.

"The reason [employee engagement] is more important than ever is that disengagement has grown through the recession, and so there is certainly a lot of anxiety and fear, and people are less connected to their organizations. There is a greater need for it," said Jennifer Rosenzweig, research director for the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement, an organization that studies the interdisciplinary elements of people performance management and measures their impact on organizational success. "The more engaged employees [you have], the more productive [you are]. As we come out of the recession, they will need engagement to go through this next positive phase, and put more gasoline in the engine."

A new study by the Forum, titled "Leadership and the Performance of People in Organizations: Enriching Employees and Connecting People," released in November 2009, further emphasizes the need for employee engagement. The study stated that: "the emergence of social media, an increasing need for transparency and labor market trends are transforming the global marketplace into a people-centered economy giving rise to a new concept called 'Employee Enrichment.' Employee enrichment is a strategic approach that genuinely emphasizes the quality of people's lives with a 'people-first' orientation."