HR Remedy News

Internal HR Marketing – Winning Hearts and Minds Through Workforce Engagement

December 24th, 2009

In every organization HR is continuously working with the company’s most important assets while also trying to support the overall business. HR strives to be a strategic partner to the business.  This requires two things: 1) Running the HR group efficiently, and 2) Viewing the business leaders as your customers.  As with any service provider, HR’s role is often to provide a high level of service, to “market” their services to business leaders, and to add value to the company’s bottom line. Business leaders will struggle to realize the true value of its HR group unless it can add value and bring an ROI to the business. The question becomes, “How does HR continue to transform itself to provide a return and exceed their efficiency and effectiveness targets?” One clear way to market HR’s role within the organization and show a significant ROI is through employee engagement and retention programs.

Many organizations are chasing the wrong problem.

Instead of focusing more of their efforts on keeping the talent they have, they often spend too much time and money finding talent from the outside. Depending on which source you cite, employee turnover will cost your organization anywhere from 1 to 5 times the cost of their salary and benefits.  Given that we can agree it is always cheaper to keep your existing workforce than it is to replace it, what can be done to improve retention?

Employee engagement and retention depend on a number of factors; and, in some instances, a reasonable level of voluntary turnover is desirable. In fact, there may be a need to effectively and systematically assess whether your current workforce can take your strategy forward. But, if your current talent can implement the organization’s goals and strategies, then a well thought out program to address workforce engagement and retention (assuming it is also integrated with the rest of your talent management initiatives) is likely to pay for itself many times over.

Let’s not forget that there can often be knee-jerk reactions to retention problems.  They can be desperate and often involve throwing money at people when dollars are not the underlying driver of dissatisfaction. Many short-term reactions and quick fixes do not work.  In fact, such reactions may be very costly, cause greater discontent and still not result in true engagement.

What do we mean when we talk about workforce engagement?

Engagement comes when your workforce feels committed to your organization. Such engagement has to be more than just loyalty to the organization as demonstrated by showing up each day. It has to be a willingness to go above and beyond, and a feeling both that the organization is something special and that employee’s individual contributions are valued.

Getting that kind of engagement depends on the complex interplay of many factors that are ideally measured and analyzed through a specifically designed employee survey. If you can isolate those factors, you can better determine what pressure points matter to your people.

Those pressure points can be issues such as:

  • Career development opportunities
  • Trust in leadership
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Organization and staffing levels
  • Work/life balance

Identifying these pressure points will drive the direction of HR programs and processes you need to have in place to influence those issues.

As you compare the list of engagement issues to your HR policies and practices you should aim to answer the following questions:

  • What are we doing right that we need to continue to do well?
  • What are we not doing that is conspicuous by its absence to people?
  • What are we doing that has little effect on commitment? i.e. why are we spending time and money on this?

Simply coming up with a long list of action items to address these issues is not going to guarantee that your workforce will be any more engaged. For example, if—as part of a Pay-For-Performance initiative—a better annual pay review process is implemented, but the corresponding performance evaluation process does not measure the right things, engagement is likely to remain minimal.

What is needed is a comprehensive and integrated talent management plan that:

  • Defines the skills and behaviors required by the organization
  • Identifies where those skills currently reside and where the gaps are
  • Creates a continuous learning environment to fill the skills gaps through leadership development, stretch assignments and other development opportunities
  • Recruits those critical skills that cannot be provided internally from outside the organization
  • Supports a metrics driven culture that rewards people for developing and exhibiting the required skills and behaviors, and
  • Encourages communication and dialogue between leadership and the workforce

However, the single most important success factor is that leadership is firmly on-board both with the need for workforce engagement and the talent management plan that will deliver it.

In summary, the key conclusions about employee engagement are as follows:

  • It is easier and less expensive to re-recruit your existing workforce than it is to replace it.
  • By measuring employee engagement and understanding what drives it, you will uncover what HR programs should be implemented or re-worked.
  • Optimum engagement is most likely to be achieved when all your HR activities are integrated via a comprehensive talent management plan.

In the final analysis, the true benefit of workforce engagement and employee retention is not reduced recruiting costs. It is the increased productivity and morale brought about by a workforce that has faith in the organization’s future and its role in it.

Jessica Nelson is the Managing Partner at HR Remedy, LLC. HR Remedy is a human capital consulting firm that works with our clients to attract, retain and develop their talent. HR Remedy takes a pragmatic and practical approach to helping companies manage their human capital. You can reach Jessica by contacting her at or 281-528-1266 or visit their website at