Kathy Madison, Comtech Services

Internet research shows that seventy-nine percent of businesses worldwide believe they have a significant retention and engagement problem with their employees; ninety-one percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for fewer than 3 years and a lack of future career opportunities is the number one reason why people quit their jobs. It’s because of statistics like these that we decided to focus the November CIDM managers roundtable discussion on best practices associated with employee development and satisfaction.

Members on the call are embracing many forms of employee development, with the most popular being to provide both technical and soft-skills training, i.e. training for authoring tools, writing techniques, subject matter expertise, leadership skills, team building, etc. Their training budgets are typically assigned to the team as a whole and managers determine how to allocate the funds either for the whole team or on an individual level. In some cases, individuals have access to small corporate allotments that they can choose to spend on training based on their own personal initiatives. One member periodically conducts Boot Camps for new employees that run 4-6 months and covers the fundamentals of their processes. These sessions are done in an encouraging, non-threatening environment which quickly assimilates the new hires into the team. Another member does cross-development training by inviting subject matter experts to conduct technical trainings during their team meetings; they love this approach since it costs them nothing. Other forms of development included providing industry networking opportunities and establishing mentoring programs where experienced writers and editors are paired with newer writers. Though none of the members on the call are doing this, one study suggested that organizations that encourage employees to improve their physical and emotional health benefit from having more productive workers who are likely to have higher retention rates.

All agreed that some form of social recognition is the most powerful and appreciated way to motivate employees. Several members have corporate level programs in place with names like “You Earned It” and “Who’s my Hero”.  These programs are often associated with monetary rewards which we’ll talk about later in this article. For those who don’t have a formal program in place, simply providing personal validation to an employee goes a long way, especially when an employee excels on a project that doesn’t have much visibility.  Reminding employees of their aggregated accomplishment is another good way to recognize and confirm achievements. Too much recognition on the other hand can back-fire, as one member discovered—they tried starting team meetings by going around the room asking writers to recognize a co-worker’s efforts, but people started to feel obligated to say something—it got tedious and became a chore. Needless to say, they are recognizing employees only when deemed appropriate.

Several other motivation techniques were mentioned:

  • Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with employees to check for burn-out and dissatisfaction and to provide feedback on how employees can exceed goals and meet career expectation. One study showed that those who have such meetings are nearly three times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t.
  • “Manage-out” team members who are constant nay-sayers or who don’t pull their own weight. A team that trusts one another, works in unison and covers each other’s backs, usually is a highly motivated team.
  • Appoint a moral officer, or have an engagement team, that focuses on making the workplace a non-drudgery environment. Did someone say let’s have a team lunch, outing or party?
  • Provide a good work environment. A study showed that workers in older buildings with low ceilings and loud air conditioners were more stressed than those in newer buildings with natural light and open layouts.
  • Practice transparency by providing the “why” of the task and the impact that employee has on completing the task.
  • Empower employees to manage projects on their own or allow them to choose the types of self-improvement training they want to take.
  • Celebrate wins.
  • Plan off-site retreats.

Even though according to one study, 83 percent of U.S. employees say recognition for contributions is more fulfilling than any type of reward or gift, most of the CIDM managers are providing some type of reward. A reward of time off to spend with their family or the opportunity to participate in a special experience were mentioned as good motivators. For the previous referenced “You Earned It” program, everyone in the company, not just managers, received points each year that they can distribute to co-workers who inspire them. Once an employee gets enough points, they can trade it in for a gift-card or use it to make a donation to a charity.

How do you know if your team is satisfied?  In the CIDM 2018 Metrics Survey, we learned that only thirty-five percent of members are formally tracking this metrics but those on the call said they just know.  Those that are tracking it are doing so using employee satisfaction surveys, but one member learned of an idea they might try which asks employees to complete a satisfaction survey based on how their team is doing, not how they feel as individuals. Questions like: “as a team, how engaged are we and how well do we collaborate” can provide a perspective on how the team reflects on itself and whether it tracks with managements assumptions.

We wrapped up the call with a few members stating that their biggest take-away was to start having more one-on-one meetings and to recognize the work that doesn’t get the visibility. They also appreciated getting refreshers on the best practices and hearing what other folks are doing. Be sure to join us for the next roundtable discussion; if you’re not a member, hearing about these sessions might be a good motivator to become a member.