With organisational talent remaining a critical asset, managing employee engagement is an ongoing problem for employers across all industry sectors. The issue becomes further compounded as increasing numbers of millenials enter the workplace, each with very different career and lifestyle expectations compared to their predecessors, Generations X and Y. Inspired by The Dream Manager, a New York Times best-selling book based on the experiences of one services company,
The Dream Manager Programme has been designed to help organizations improve employee engagement and address the changing expectations of a modern workforce. It takes a unique approach, using group based coaching and a structured, 12 session format that prioritizes the needs of the employee as an individual first and foremost. In this article, the author shows how if employees believe they are valued, supported and getting what they want out of work beyond just money, they will reciprocate with positive attitudes and behavior that directly contributes to a corporation’s bottomline.
Many organizations experience problems with employee engagement, but it is particularly problematic for those employing a large numbers of ‘millennials’ and younger workers. This occurs because these employees are less motivated by financial remuneration or job security, and more likely to want an employment experience or a career that offers what engagement experts describe as ‘whole life satisfaction’. As PwC highlights in its annual study of employee engagement, millennial workers born between 1985 and 1995 are driven by social needs, having a feeling of appreciation and being able to collaborate with co-workers.
Contrast this with Generation X workers born 1965 and 1979, who want financial security and a steady career path. Younger workers are also more inclined to job hop and try something else if they don’t get what they think an employer should be providing. Whereas Generation X workers stay in a job role for an average of 4/5 years, this drops to 2 years and under for millenials. Indeed, some estimates even suggest that by the time a millennial worker reaches the end of their working lives, they will have had over 20 jobs. For employers, this means managing employee engagement and reducing employee turnover levels will become challenging and at the same time, more important for organizations to get right.
The business disruption and high costs involved have made employee retention a concern for many executives. When workers leave an organization, there are a number of impacts, from the inevitable brain drain and loss of expertise, to the physical costs of having to recruit a replacement. According to the CIPD, the total cost of staff turnover for an organization with 4,000 employees and a 10% staff turnover rate is approximately £12 million each year, taking into account lost productivity, training and recruitment costs. Drilling down into greater detail, to replace each departing colleague takes on average nine weeks and £30,614.
Faced with such high expenses, it is easy to appreciate why employee engagement is such an important issue. Traditionally taken care of with an annual survey to measure levels of engagement, direct reports from HR Directors during recent focus groups suggest this formal model is no longer a reliable indicator. Even where survey findings ‘prove’ that engagement levels are high – as much as 80% – rates of staff turnover suggest otherwise. Employees are voting with their feet and departing for pastures new, an international trend that appears to be increasing. Hay Group’s 2015 global survey predicted that 161.7 million workers across the world would leave their employers in 2015 and the total staff turnover rate is predicted to grow from 20.6% to 23.4% in 2020.
Reversing the trend
What can leadership do to reverse this trend? How can the preference among millenials for their employers to provide life experience and personal growth opportunities be used by organizations for strategic benefit? Based on many years of experience as an HRD and MD of a FTSE100 company and executive coach, my belief is that managers and business leaders need to appreciate that a key part of their role now is to recognize the individual dreams of the people within their organizations and enable them to realize some of these aspirations – both at a personal and professional level. For employees to really be engaged in their work, they have to be engaged in their lives – this is the first step towards creating engaged employees. Once the foundation layer of financial security is provided, employees are starting to question what their employer is offering them and begin seeking more.
This thinking that an employer needs to put people first to demonstrate their authenticity was the inspiration behind Matthew Kelly’s award winning book, The Dream Manager. In turn, it has inspired The Dream Manager Programme (www.thedreammanagerprogramme.com) as a coaching framework, which has subsequently been implemented in a variety of US and now, UK organizations, as a fresh approach to improving employee engagement. It is based on the understanding that achieving high employee engagement requires, as a foundation, for employees to be engaged in their own lives first.
Dream management as an employee engagement intervention follows a structured programme of group based coaching around core life themes, including physical, communication, financial, spiritual and intellectual to help employees to pursue their whole life dreams and in doing so, become better versions of themselves.
Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs within an employment and engagement context provides a useful model for illustrating why The Dream Manager Programme is so effective as an employee engagement strategy. In addition, it acknowledges how the motivational forces for employee engagement have changed. For this reason, the idea of facilitating dream making can be very powerful as an employee benefit and motivational tool. To further explain the theory behind dream making as an employee engagement intervention, it provides a way to reinforce the concept of reciprocity, which underpins the employer/ employee contract. When the employer invests in the employee’s wellbeing, they feel valued and reciprocate directly with renewed employer loyalty and by working harder and more efficiently. The investment cost to the employer of helping the employee is repaid in multiples through greater performance levels.
Testing this approach within a range of organizations has demonstrated that whenan employer helps its employees to pursue their individual whole life dreams using coaching, workplace engagement and the associated financial benefits it brings grow. Very significantly, when questioned about their post programme experiences, participants reported improved mental wellbeing and greater professional focus. In addition to the many other personal benefits gained, the participants also reported that the availability of dream management as an employee benefit demonstrated the real authenticity of their employer. Many employers have adopted ‘caring’ as a value and need to find ways to actively communicate this.
After completing The Dream Manager Programme, employees clearly saw a difference between this approach to building worker engagement and the more widespread, self-serving methods. After reviewing it, Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, described dream making as a model that would “forever change how companies think about employees, and how managers define what it means to do their job.”