Forget what you know about engagement, the key is in cohesion

Employee turnover is more than a headache for HR. It is an exhausting and expensive experience for every leader in your organization; impacting morale and your bottom line. The time, money, and effort required to replace your talent is astronomical compared to what it costs to implement the strategies which create a culture where people want to stay.

South Carolina Federal Credit Union is consistently named as one of the “Best Places to Work” because we have discovered the secret of employee retention. It begins with a fundamental understanding;

Engagement simply isn’t enough.

Hit the snooze button on this buzzword

Most HR strategies are packed with commentary about the importance of employee (buzzword alert) “engagement.” Leaders work tirelessly to learn how to encourage and obtain “engagement” from staff. They complete training and seminars, leaving the sessions filled with more of the same … an all-too-familiar sense that engagement is important and if one works hard enough (not sure at what) employee engagement will emerge. From my vantage point, it is a “build it and they will come” mentality.

Still, the question remains, what exactly needs to be built?

You aren’t addressing the right problem

Why the disconnect between leadership and the outcome they desire? We aren’t addressing the right problem. The real problem is that discussion is often centered on motivating people to find ways to encourage employee engagement with and by others. Examples of engagement are observed behaviors that may signal an employee is committed, but the proof is not just in the behavior, it is the emotional investment the employee makes. The optimal word phrase here is “find ways.” What organizational leaders need are “THE ways to get it done.”

This very tired conversation directs leaders to think of employee engagement as a fancy way to say “employee commitment.” When in actuality, leaders should be thinking of employee engagement as a result of cohesion.

Fostering employee engagement through cohesion — which includes employees being committed to successful results of the company — requires creating an environment where teamwork is the standard and value abounds. This type of engagement is the by-product of a Cohesion Culture™.

Why Cohesion Culture is the real solution

Unlike engagement, cohesion and its impacts are measurable. Cohesion has been studied for several decades. My doctoral research supported the hypothesis: “Cohesion positively impacts performance in all stages of a group’s life cycle.” I studied it on an individual level and this unique perspective provides a framework for the future. The basic insight for leaders … cohesion causes performance, which in turn produces engagement.

Leaders can no longer put the burden of organizational success on the shoulders of the employee. To be effective, leaders must make the effort to be purposeful toward building high-performing teams through cohesion.

What does it mean to have a Cohesion Culture™?

Building a Cohesion Culture™ takes more than offering employees casual Fridays, a snack bar, or a ping-pong table in the employee common area. It’s more than sending a congratulatory email or posting a picture of the “Employee of the Month” on the wall of the breakroom.

In fact, building a culture of cohesion requires three components:

  1. A sense of belonging
  2. Value
  3. Commitment

When employees feel they are part of something that matters, they express a positive attitude and exhibit behaviors of inclusiveness toward others and the organization. They feel a sense of belonging. All employees want to have value, or more importantly to be valued. Lastly, when it comes to commitment, cohesion occurs when leaders invest in the development, growth, and evolution of the employee first, then leaders bridge that employee commitment toward organizational goals.

Putting it all together

Employees want to belong to something that is important. They want to know that what they do matters. It’s personal. It is incumbent upon management to connect the dots between an employee’s purpose and the role they play in the organization. That’s how passion is ignited and sustained. Employees will commit to achievement when they understand why the outcome is needed and how the outcome contributes to their personal success and then to company success.

We know why Cohesion Culture matters. Join me in my next article where I deliver strategies to build a Cohesion Culture in your organization that will create a dramatic impact on your retention rates.

Dr. Troy Hall is the Chief Strategy Officer for South Carolina Federal Credit Union, a $1.8B financial cooperative with over 165,000 members. With a Ph.D. in Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Troy has earned the designation as an International Development Educator. As the author of Cohesion Culture: Proven Principles to Retain Your Top Talent, his book showcases how and why South Carolina Federal Credit Union has been named a “Best Places To Work” by Glassdoor, the Credit Union Industry, and State of South Carolina.