Staying Ahead of the Learning Curve—Q&A with Jodi Glickman

Part III of our interview with Great on the Job author Jodi Glickman, the Engagement and Retention Edition. Jodi is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, consultant and regular blogger for Harvard Business Review. She is a faculty member of the Johnson School’s Leadership Program at Cornell and a contributor to and Business Insider. Her new book: Great on the Job, What to Say, How to Say It, The Secrets of Getting Ahead has been described as a veritable master class in workplace success.

Q: There seems to be a real disconnect between what employers think employees value at work, and vice versa. What advice would you give employers who are struggling with engagement or retention in their workforce? Again, this seems to illustrate a communication gap, perhaps even the absence of a feedback mechanism.

Engaged employees are happy employees and the research shows time and time again that companies with higher employee engagement perform better financially. Employers have to make real effort to reach out to employees and find out what is going well and what needs changing. The shift has to start with the top—senior management needs to demonstrate a commitment to listening to employees.

On a more basic level, line managers need to be held accountable for keeping their teams and divisions challenged and engaged. Knowing what your employees want to work on, are great at doing and are hoping to learn will help you come up with work plans for individual employees. People will work harder for a manager who is focused on their professional development.

There’s also a huge misperception about incentives at work.  The vast majority of employees cites recognition as one of the main motivating factors at work—not more money or cash bonuses.  Calling out a colleague for work well done goes a long way to maintaining morale and making employees feel valued.

Q: In terms of engagement, how do feel about employees having a real, tangible stake in the company’s success or failure, i.e. accountability for profits, revenue, customer satisfaction and so on? Are these rewarding places in which to work?

I often think about how fun it would be to work at Apple (even after reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson which showed him to be a tough boss, to put it nicely). Can you imagine how amazingly gratifying it would be to make such awesome products? To know that people literally LOVED your company and your products and couldn’t wait to get their hands on your latest innovations? And to know that your stock options had quadrupled in value over the last ten year?

So yes, I think it’s hugely important for employees to have a real, tangible stake in a company’s success or failure. People take real pride in creating great products or delivering superior customer service. People are motivated by far more than money, so it’s never money alone… but certainly employees should be rewarded for their company’s success and feel like they have a real stake in the outcome.

And as an entrepreneur myself, I am always conscious of how I am going to reward my employees as the business grows—I always want them to know that when we do better as a company they will do better financially. It’s part of the bargain—put your best foot forward, give your job your heart and soul and you’ll be rewarded with a raise or a bonus and a job that is over time, more challenging and rewarding.

Be sure to read parts I and II as well.