Francis Hesselbein, former CEO of Girl Scouts, said “Dispirited, unmotivated, unappreciated workers cannot compete in a highly competitive world.” I have been thinking of this a lot lately, especially in conversations with my colleagues in the Oil and Gas Industry. With oil hovering at less than $55 per barrel – cash is tight and spending is almost non-existent. The focus, during a downturn like this, is often to just save money in the moment. Cash is hoarded, people are laid off, travel cancelled, investment in everything stops. Folks sound discouraged and unappreciated as employee engagement has dropped as well. Without the tremendous pressure to ‘get production out the door’ or ‘get the project up and running’, there is breathing space and an opportunity. The opportunity is to engage people more fully so that they are better prepared for the competition when the price per barrel goes back up. And, given that only 71% of the workforce is engaged, with only 36% being highly engaged (Korn Ferry Hay Group survey), increasing engagement would have a significant positive impact across the board for organizations. This is a time to use the breathing space and invest for engagement.
One of the fastest and most effective ways to engage employees is through training and development. Training and development sends the message to the employee that they are valuable and appreciated. It says ‘we are willing to spend money on you’. Additionally, asking an employee where they want to build skills can be an energizing conversation. They usually know where they have opportunities, but may not have the skills to close the gap. Asking, and then supporting skills development can make all the difference. Additionally, many skills can be learned, practiced, and then implemented quickly. This supports individuals, and teams, in doing their jobs better and more easily today. It also helps them be more flexible, effective, and creative for tomorrow – as they are better prepared for the next challenge.
There is an additional benefit to engagement through training and development. Talent solutions provider Saba recently conducted a survey of human resource executives and asked questions about engagement, feedback, and retention. Their survey reported that 86% of employees, in the Millennial age group, said that they would be more inclined to stay at their current company if they were given access to quality training and development. According to the Pew Research Center, today one-in-three American workers are Millennials (adults ages 18-34 in 2015). They are the dominant labor force and will be for quite some time. What a missed opportunity for retention if they are not engaged through development! Regardless of the age group, investment in development states a willingness to invest in people.
The book, People Glue says, “Employee engagement is an investment we make for the privilege of future proofing our organization’s productivity and performance”. Look at the downturn and quieter times in your business. Are they an engagement and development opportunity? Don’t miss the chance to send a message to your team. They will be more engaged, stick around, perform better, and be better prepared to deliver results through whatever challenges come next. Begin the engagement and development! The investment will pay off!