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Future of Talent: Employee Engagement Drives Business Success

Report by Heidi Gilman Bennett

It’s the morning after the Super Bowl … do we show up to work deeply committed? Do we choose to give our workplace our best effort, or do we hold back? This emotional connection and dedication we each have to our work is what experts term “employee engagement.”

On February 12th, which was indeed the morning following a late-night football extravaganza, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Charlottesville Office of Economic Development hosted a group of local business leaders committed to learning strategies for increasing engagement of workers.

Speaker Chris Heinz, Director of People & Associate Experience for Charlottesville-based Carter Myers Automotive, is an expert on employee engagement. As one attendee commented, Heinz comes across as exactly the kind of boss most of us would love to have. He generously shared advice based on decades of experience transforming workplace teams.

Employee engagement may sound like a “nice-to-have,” but Heinz explains that it’s an “everyone wins” business practice that can dramatically impact business results. A workplace with highly engaged employees will benefit from:

  • Lower absenteeism,
  • Less employee turnover,
  • Fewer safety incidents.
  • Higher customer ratings, and
  • Higher productivity, sales and profitability.

Heinz reviewed three types of workers that exist in businesses of all sizes:

  • Engaged – Only a third of workers in average U.S. businesses are willing to give their best discretionary effort based on feeling dedicated, committed to, and emotionally-connected to work and their workplace.
  • Disengaged – The majority of employees do “show up” and may be productive, but are not psychologically connected enough to give their best effort.
  • Actively Disengaged – Workers who are miserable are both dangerous to an organization’s stability and also costly due to lost productivity.

Many business leaders falsely believe they can improve employee engagement by offering incentives like increased benefits and compensation. Heinz explained that these short-term positive boosts don’t “stick,” and instead recommended ten ways to engage employees.

Heinz inspired Charlottesville-area business leaders to become champions of engagement. Some “Future of Talent” insights and ideas that resonated with attendees:

  • Small businesses with limited resources might offer training such as lunchtime webinars, or use grant funding from City of Charlottesville Office of Economic Development to procure consultant specialists.
  • It’s not just Millennials who are driven to jobs that offer personal growth opportunities; employees of all ages crave mastery and autonomy, and value training aligned to personal strengths and job skills.
  • Managers seeking support in how to best recognize employees might benefit from the book 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.
  • Make clear how employees connect to an organization’s purpose. For example, a janitor at a children’s hospital responded to “what do you do?” with “I keep kids healthy.”
  • Workplaces are trending away from “bosses” who are focused on improving results above people, and toward managers as “coaches” who offer growth and development for employees as human beings. Get started by having at least one weekly meaningful conversation where you connect with an employee about purpose and/or strengths.
  • Managers may not necessarily require off-the-charts strengths in influencing others and building relationships to be successful. What’s critical is using the strengths you do have to develop your employees’ talents.
  • Employees who remain “remote” vs. in-person require managers’ particular attention to psychological proximity. With the tools to do remote work in place, the focus needs to shift to strategies to close relationship gaps and build both trust & care.

The conversation on “The Future of Talent” will continue on February 21st with a panel of experts focusing on Recruitment.

To learn more about the City of Charlottesville’s programs to support hiring and training for qualifying businesses, contact Jenny Biche, Workforce Development Program Manager: