Employee Engagement

Cultures of cohesion connect employees with engagement

By Carol Brzozowski

Jan. 29, 2020

It’s time employers stop focusing on employee engagement and start focusing on cohesion, according to Troy Hall, chief strategy officer for South Carolina Federal Credit Union.

“More often than not, leaders fail to embrace the type of culture that places an emphasis on the employee,” said Hall. “When organizations claim employees are their greatest assets, one would expect to experience the type of thinking and see actions that correlate to that end.employee engagement

“Far too often that is not the case because leadership has been taught for the past two decades to put profit before people.”

A “cohesion culture” is a work environment where employees have a sense of belonging, understand their value and commit to both self and desired organizational outcomes, he said.

Hall has spent 14 years working with the South Carolina Federal Credit Union’s leadership team to create a cohesion culture. He does it through an approach he calls the talent retention model, which he describes in his book “Cohesion Culture: Proven Principles to Retain Your Top Talent.”

“Cohesion is a causal phenomenon, engagement is not,” said Hall. “When cohesion is present, it has a positive impact on performance. Cohesive team members produce better results. Cohesion can be measured, engagement cannot.”

Engagement is an arrangement to do something with a specified period of time, he added.

“We think of engagement as leading to commitment, loyalty and going the extra mile. In fact, the type of engagement that leaders seek is fueled through cohesion.”

Today’s workforce requires transformative leaders who value people beyond the courting process, said Hall.

“Employees want to work in an environment that makes them feel like they belong, have value and can commit to both personal and corporate desired outcomes,” he added.

Hall’s strategies have worked, leading the credit union to be named one of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in 2019 and 2020. In 2017, it earned a No. 2 ranking on a national list of best credit unions to work from Credit Union Journal and Best Companies Group, which identified companies that have excelled in creating quality workplaces for employees.

Employees offered praise for the financial institution, citing its “fantastic” 401(k), time-off policies, an option that offers free health care, management’s ability to “keep things fun and keep motivation high” and how “they make you feel special, appreciated and give lots of opportunities to grow.”

Hall shares his organization’s success stories and methodologies with others’ top management and HR directors worldwide to help transform their cultures and retain top talent.

The war for talent must transcend merely attracting talent to focusing on retention strategies, said Hall.

“With 63 percent of the current workforce seeking opportunities for advancement or new roles, employers will need to focus on retaining that talent or it will become a revolving door between acquisition and retention,” said Hall.

It costs 25 percent of the employee’s salary to replace the organizational intelligence that walks out the door, Hall said.

Hall’s doctoral dissertation at Regent University in global leadership and entrepreneurship focused on group dynamics and cohesion.

“My assertion to focus on retention is based upon what we are seeing as trends in the marketplace and understanding how to create a culture that is self-fulfilling and sustainable,” he said.

It is critical for CEOs to lead the charge for talent retention, said Hall. His boss, Credit Union CEO Scott Woods is a prime example.

“CEOs who are self-aware inspire a cohesive spirit within their company and align individual wants, desires and goals to those of the organization,” Hall said.

The smallest of actions can have a ripple effect, said Hall.

“A misplaced comment or the unexplained absence of the CEO from a major organizational endeavor sends confusing signals,” he said. “It is up the CEO to ensure the leadership team is on board with the culture and that they work in tandem to represent one voice.”

Aligning employee goals to organizational goals maximizes the bottom line, said Hall.

Within the cohesion process, the element of commitment is more aptly fulfilled with leaders who support employee development first, then move toward organizational goals, said Hall.

Carol Brzozowski is a Florida-based independent journalist. 

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