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October 2012 Talking Points Newsletter

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What exactly is “employee engagement” and why does it matter? Engagement is best defined by an employee's desire to give more of his or her discretionary effort, to go the extra proverbial mile, in order help the company achieve its peak financial performance.

In her book, Closing the Engagement Gap: How Great Companies Unlock Employee Potential for Superior Results, Julie Gebauer sums up the signature characteristic of a highly engaged employee. Instead of asking, “What's in it for me?” highly engaged employees ask, “What's in it for us?”

Engagement Drives Financial Performance

It comes as no surprise that employee engagement drives business outcomes. What may be downright astonishing, however, is the extent to which an employee's commitment to the company impacts its bottom line. The numbers speak for themselves. According to the Watson Wyatt WorkUSA Report, employees with high engagement work at companies with 26 percent higher revenue per employee, and 13 percent higher total returns to shareholders (TRS). Similarly, a recent Hay Group study found that companies with highly engaged workers grew revenues two and a half times as much as those companies with low engagement levels. These numbers are hardly incremental. They can make the difference between marketplace winners and losers.

How to Boost Employee Engagement

The verdict is in. While compensation and benefits still matter, when it comes to employee engagement, other drivers matter even more. Namely, it's having a manager and other organizational leaders who provide employees with opportunities for growth, learning and development, as well as the specific skills and resources employees need to excel. According to Gebeauer,

“Employees care about what kind of leaders they have and leadership's focus and commitment. They care about what their company stands for, and their ability to build skills and advance in their careers. These are the things that matter to employees in forming emotional attachments to an organization, and they're remarkably consistent around the world.”

David Abramson, President and CEO of Technology Management Associates agreed; “When management makes the commitment to foster growth, employees commit to going the extra mile” (interview conducted October 12th, 2012).

Accent Reduction: The Difference that Makes the Difference

How can companies increase engagement of all employees, including corporate professionals for whom English is a second language? When managers provide accent reduction training, they demonstrate they understand their employees' needs, and are committed to meeting them. Accent reduction training teaches the techniques needed to pronounce sounds in English that do not exist in other languages. For people who find English pronunciation challenging, and who need to interface with clients and colleagues on a regular basis, it's a needed tool for employee growth and development.

When communication barriers go down, the quality and ease of engagement goes up. As a former Accents International participant from Oracle explained,

“Having better pronunciation makes you feel more confident and speaking comes more naturally. I could communicate before, but this took my English to the next level. I have so much more confidence. That makes a HUGE difference. It's easier to jump in and contribute. I no longer hold back.”

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