Wind Chimes at Work

Organizations today often hit a sour note with employees when it comes to company culture, career opportunities, and management. What can companies do to help their people be “jazzed by their jobs”?

A little over a month ago, I received a LinkedIn message from a former colleague I hadn’t spoken with in 20-plus years. We made a date to catch up by phone and subsequently had a wonderful conversation about the trajectories our personal and professional lives took over the last two decades.

We agreed to keep in touch, and a few days later, she sent me an e-mail saying in part, “the wind chimes in your voice touched my heart.”

I loved that lyrical imagery and was glad that my enthusiasm for my job—and the training industry—resonated with her, because I genuinely love what I do here at Training magazine. But many employees today are not quite so “jazzed by their jobs,” and their organizations struggle to engage and retain them.

That’s a big problem as employee engagement plays a major role in organizational success. According to Gallup’s 2020 meta-analysis of 112,312 businesses, ROI for investing in employee engagement will increase profitability by 23 percent and customer engagement by 10 percent, while significantly reducing turnover. In “Leaders: It’s Time to Think Differently About How to Increase Profitability,” executive coach and leadership trainer Joy Meserve offers three strategies senior leaders can use to prioritize and drive employee engagement by increasing motivation. And Christian Gossan, who helped pilot a bespoke scalable, gamified digital learning experience for 150,000 people that had an “engagement first” guiding principle, provides his top five tips to engage employees while avoiding the digital solution graveyard.

Jenny von Podewils, co-founder and co-CEO of Leapsome, follows up with tips to measure engagement to figure out what is working well and what needs improvement.

Keep Moms in Mind

One group of employees that organizations often fail to bolster is working mothers. Companies that creatively support working mothers create a deep foundation of employee loyalty, which is a competitive advantage in the war for talent, notes Bethany Bremer, who works on simulation design and facilitates the Leadership Foundations program at Insight Experience. She explains that working mothers need flexibility, a variety of work options, connection, and understanding. “Working mothers are superheroes. They are the multi-tasking, late-night-working, connection-making queens who will bend over backwards for leaders who provide genuine support,” Bremer writes in “Multitasking Mamas: Tapping into Monumental Talent.”

A Safe Space for Work

Giving employees a voice is another crucial part of fostering employee engagement. “It starts with creating safe spaces for sharing feedback and fostering a culture that values it,” explains Max Farrell, co-founder and CEO of WorkHound. “It continues by acting on that feedback, demonstrating to employees that their voices lead to change.”

Adds Jennifer Zach, founder of Zach Coaching, LLC, “Clear expectations are the most foundational of all engagement elements. Employees can only fully engage or perform at high levels when they know what to do. And if they don’t feel safe speaking up to voice their concerns or ask questions, they won’t. They will go into a confused, self-preserve mode instead.”

See “How Psychological Safety Helps Develop Talent and Sustain Employee Engagement” and “Feedback from Front-Line Employees Is Key” for strategies to create a feedback-friendly and psychologically safe culture.

Offering employees options for where to work is a significant factor in employee engagement, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as some employees prefer to continue working remotely, while others want to be in an office or have the flexibility of a hybrid arrangement. In the office, layering policy and physical workspace elements makes room for discussion around how and when space is used, and for what activities, note senior interior designer Allison Gregory and lead strategist Michael C. Simcox at international architectural firm BHDP in “How HR Policies and the Built Environment Drive Employee Well-Being.” “HR policies concerning flexible work hours, ergonomics, and neurodivergence open the door for empathetic discussions around neurodivergence. Customizable workspaces empower staff to determine their optimal ways of working.”

Leaders Need to Lead the Way

According to Dr. Paige Graham, Global Portfolio manager of Consultative Solutions at the Center for Creative Leadership, one of the most accessible, cost-effective, and powerful levers for increasing well-being and engagement at work is leadership. A recent meta-analysis shows that the biggest impact on employee well-being and engagement comes from eliminating toxic behaviors in managers and increasing transformational leadership behaviors. In “Retain and Engage Your Talent by Leading with Well-Being,” she examines six specific actionable areas of well-being that can be applied at multiple levels (individuals, teams, departments, and the entire organization) and are related to business outcomes.

Create a Career Development Framework

Organizations also must create opportunities and career paths for employees so they choose to stay with your organization. According to The 2023 Future of Working and Learning Report, released by Executive Networks, which surveyed 1,301 HR and business leaders and knowledge and front-line workers across North America, India, and Europe, nearly half of knowledge workers (45 percent) and about a third of front-line workers (30 percent) believe people are leaving their company due to insufficient career advancement and development opportunities.

Pacific Western Bank alleviated that concern by creating a career development framework that promotes the intersection of an individual’s skills and interests, and determines how those align with and can positively impact the organization’s goals. Read the case study in “Career Development Aims to Engage Employees.”

Share Your Engagement Story

We want to learn more about your organization’s stellar talent development and employee engagement strategies. Apply for our 2024 Training APEX Awards—which recognize excellence in employee training and development—and highlight how you are empowering your employees to achieve their greatest potential. To download the 2024 application and the quantitative and qualitative scoring guidelines, please visit:

Let the Good (Learning) Times Roll!

We hope to engage YOU at our upcoming TechLearn 2023 Conference taking place September 19-21 in New Orleans, where you can experience:

  • 35+ Innovations in Training Test Kitchen demos
  • 56 breakout sessions
  • 8 hands-on clinics
  • 2 thought-provoking keynotes: Theoretical neuroscientist, inventor, and author Dr. Vivienne Ming shares exclusive research on the impact of artificial intelligence in training and learning. Ann Yoachim, director of Tulane School of Architecture’s Small Center for Collaborative Design, highlights how the school is blending design and learning to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout New Orleans and beyond.
  • 3 New Orleans experiences (ghost tour, river cruise, and craft cocktail tastings) + a dine around mixer event
  • 4 pre-conference certificate programs
  • 1 co-located event: GamiCon NOLA

Download a brochure to learn more and click here to register. You’ll get an automatic $150 discount on the TechLearn Conference with the Early Bird Rate. Join us as we let the good (learning) times roll in The Big Easy!

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.