Employee Engagement

Human capital management: Considerations to better engage employees and promote diversity

By Jana Reserva

Oct. 1, 2020

One big difference between a good company and a great one is its human capital management. Much of it has to do with employee engagement and promoting diversity in the workforce. 

Workforce.com recently caught up with Edwin Mouriño, talent development professional, executive coach, and U.S. Air Force veteran, to discuss the relationship between human capital management, employee engagement and diversity and inclusion. 

Mouriño shared some best practices that companies can follow to nurture their human capital, engage employees better and embrace diversity in today’s workforce. 

Understand and put value into human capital

The first challenge is the wrong mindset. Human capital management is vital but some organizations still fail to see its real value. What organizations and their leaders need to remember is that everyone craves meaning and purpose in life, but few find such fulfillment at work. Employee expectations are changing, and many companies have not evolved to keep up with these changing expectations. 

“Human capital basically is the skills, knowledge, and experience of a workforce and the value that those bring to an organization,” Mouriño said. “Unfortunately, some organizations see it as second to the bottom line versus as being part of impacting the bottom line. So it’s either undervalued, taken for granted, or maybe an afterthought.”

The first step is understanding the value that goes into human capital and its impact on overall business. At the end of the day, how companies nurture their people will reflect on their service and how they treat clients and partners. 

Prioritize leadership training

When an employee performs well in a role, a promotion to a lead or manager position is typically the next step. But this career progression model may not be ideal without the proper leadership development involved. 

“In the Air Force, you don’t get promoted until you went off to leadership development training,” he said. “In the civilian world, it’s the opposite. If you’re the best in your role, you will be promoted to a lead position. However, it’s important to consider that you might be the best person for a particular position, but are you prepared and effective enough to manage people?” 

Leadership development is crucial, he said. Managers need to be developed. 

“They need to be held accountable and rewarded  for following through and modeling what they learned in their leadership development workshops,” Mouriño said. 

Set a clear purpose

Benefits and perks are some of the things that come to mind when talking about employee engagement. But it’s more than that, he said. A considerable part of it is providing a clear purpose and equipping employees to fulfill that goal. 

“Employees come to work, not just for the money, ironically,” he said. “Yes, they work to make a living, but at the end of the day they want something beyond that. They want to make a mark on society by being part of an organization.”

Setting and communicating that purpose sets the tone for how engaged employees will be. When partnered with the right technology and tools, employees are more likely to perform at their best. 

Also read: Make managers more successful with the tools to retain and engage their employees

Create programs for nurturing human capital

Learning and development programs determine whether an employee would choose to stay in an organization or look for opportunities elsewhere. According to a report from LinkedIn, 94 percent of employees will stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. 

Some organizations see training as an expense, Mouriño said. Instead they need to see it as an investment and ensure they are creating a learning organization. Mouriño was reminded of something he read that went something like, “What if I train them and they leave? What if you don’t and they stay?”

“Employee engagement drives a key part of human capital efforts,” Mouriño said. “If a company promises development training but fails to do so and falls short of providing a good working experience, it’s at risk of losing its top talent.” 

That’s not to say that employees, in particular millennials, want to be the CEO next week or next year, but it’s more about giving them avenues to grow and be involved in projects and tasks that allow them to learn more and nurture their potential, Mouriño explained.

Walk the talk

Companies that claim to value diversity should have a strategic imperative to follow through. They should consider the demographics of their workforce and create policies and programs that will support their employees’ unique needs based on their race, age, gender, and other factors.

“Think of your employees as your consumer base,” Mouriño said. “How do you engage that consumer base? If there are more younger people coming into the workforce, think about how you’re going to pull them in, because they will take care of the company later on. How do you capitalize on the fact that you have a 20-something-year-old along with a 60-year-old from different backgrounds? That 60-year-old has a lot of experience, while that 20-year-old brings in a new way of thinking and that eagerness to learn and do more. How do you manage that moving forward?” 

He advised looking into HR policies and practices to accommodate different  demographic needs. “Traditionally, people retire by 55 or 60. But more are choosing to continue working. Organizations need to look at what practices and policies they need to put in place to keep these people longer. Consider that some may not want to work full time, but can you keep them part-time? One of the key needs they have like others is health care. This will be key for them. How do you go about knowledge sharing and management, so they can pass on some of their experiences onto the upcoming generations?”

 In a LinkedIn article, Mouriño explains why companies need to look deeper into the aging workforce, address common misconceptions about them and create new policies specific to baby boomers. Additionally, how can younger members of the workforce bring their IT savviness skill set to the older generation? 

“You need to make it a more inclusive learning and development process for everybody that’s there,” he said. 

Other considerations that companies should pay more attention to is unconscious bias. Again, raising that awareness and going through those hidden biases is part of learning and development. 

“Leaders need to help their people work through their unconscious biases. Learning and development plays a key role in it,” he said. “How do you help employees understand that they bring their own biases to the table just like you do? So you look at an older guy, and you go, ‘Well, he seems to be stuck in his ways.’ You look at a younger person and think, ‘Well, he doesn’t know anything,’ or ‘She’s a woman.’ Everyone needs to be conscious of what’s driving them to make decisions or perceive co-workers or potential applicants in certain ways,” he said. 

Mouriño also advised promoting diversity in the higher ranks. Representation helps employees to aspire more or see an opportunity to move up in the organization when they identify with an executive. 

“There’s a limited number of Fortune 500 companies where executives are African-American, Hispanic or Asian. We need more diversity at the executive level so that they can not only make more inclusive, broad, decisions on how to bring people in,” but also be demonstrating that they are sincere about diversity, he said.

Also read: How to cultivate innovation in the workforce

Listen to your employees 

No matter how comprehensive you think your employee programs are, it will all be for nothing if you don’t check in with your employees, understand their sentiment, and see what’s really going on. A recent study found that only 8 percent of leaders are considered effective listeners or communicators. Another study found that 65 percent of employees would give up a pay raise to see their bosses fired. This presents a great opportunity for organizations. 

“I have seen some organizations that accept the average attrition rate in their industry and just live with that,” Mouriño said. “That can be problematic. Just because everybody else is going down one path doesn’t mean you can be complacent and shouldn’t try to differentiate your company against other players in the industry.”

Look at attrition and identify who’s leaving and why are they leaving, he said. That is indicative of what needs to change or improve to help people stay engaged.

“One of the companies I worked with had issues with minorities, women and people with under five years of experience with the company. It’s a big turnover. That’s one sign right there.” he said. 

“Another thing is silence. If people are not contributing or vocal, then that means they are not comfortable saying their piece or voicing their perspectives. And when people don’t speak up, they do so with their feet and leave the organization,” he said.

How can organizations encourage people to speak up? Ask the right questions, evaluating the answers, and following through with all concerns raised, he said.  

“In reality, the answers are already within the organization,” he said. “If you have people in the company focused on employee engagement and promoting diversity and inclusion, listen to them. You can also bring in a consultant to evaluate engagement and talk to your people. But at the end of the day, the answers are within your organization. And it’s up to you on how you can get that information and act on it.”

Jana Reserva is a content manager for Workforce.com.

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