Employee Engagement Expert Advice – Interview With Jill Christensen

JillChristensenJill Christensen is an international speaker, Amazon best-selling author, and employee engagement expert.  

Her career spans 28 years, where she has built a distinguished record of achievements. She had led global internal communications teams at Avaya and Western Union. Jill has also advised executives, and directed employee engagement and communications programs in seven different industries, in Fortune 500 companies including AT&T, Lucent/Alcatel, Arrow, and Novartis.  

Jill will also be one of the judges at this year’s Employee Engagement (EE) Awards & Summit. For more information about the event, visit the event page.

HR Gazette: What does employee engagement mean to you?

Jill: It means employees trust leadership and feel an emotional connection to the organization, the same way they did their first day on the job. Employee Engagement is not the same as happy. Things like an office dog, ping pong table, and spirits in the mini-fridge make employees happy, but these things will not encourage a person to stay if they are disengaged (do not trust leadership or feel no emotional connection to the company).

HR Gazette: What are your three tips for companies looking to drive engagement in their organizations?

Jill: In my new amazon best-selling book, If Not You, Who? Cracking the Code of Employee Disengagement, I point to four tips to drive employee engagement. If I had to pick three, I’d pick: create a two-way communication culture; verbally recognize employees in a way that’s timely, sincere and specific; and ensure that every employee can see a line of sight between what they do day-to-day and the company’s goals. 

 

HR Gazette: What do you feel are the biggest pitfalls that companies should avoid when executing their engagement strategy?

Jill:  Don’t outsource employee engagement to HR. Senior leaders must own employee engagement in partnership with HR, Internal Communications and Supervisors.

Don’t roll out employee engagement as a program or initiative. Your employee engagement strategy must be woven throughout your business – you must fundamentally change the way you operate.

Don’t let supervisors off the hook. As the frontline to your employees, they must be held accountable for executing on your employee engagement strategy. 

 

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HR Gazette: Why do employees fail to buy-in when companies try to ramp up engagement?

Jill: From my decades of experience in global Fortune 500 companies in seven different industries, employees don’t fail to buy-in. Leaders and supervisors fail to buy in. Leaders outsource employee engagement to HR and supervisors do very little to improve their leadership skills, so they never become a great people manager who inspires others.  

HR Gazette: What skills are most useful for everyone to have when trying to move towards a culture of engagement?

Jill: The people championing the employee engagement strategy must be self-confident, courageous, present, and optimistic. If you approach culture change strategically, it’s not difficult but it’s also not for the faint of heart. You must believe in your ability to drive change, have the courage to take calculated risks, be in the moment so you always have your finger on the pulse of the organization and how things are going, and you must think positive thoughts about what you are going to accomplish and lift up those around you.

HR Gazette: You’re a judge for the North American 2016 Employee Engagement awards. What will you be looking for in entries?

Jill: Most importantly, creativity. I love seeing new ideas to re-engage employees. I come across the same solutions again and again, so I’m looking forward to learning some new ideas and seeing the measurable results that followed. Because at the end of the day, numbers don’t lie. You must be able to show senior leaders that your results are paying off!


More about Jill

An expert in employee engagement, Jill is a visionary change agent, and author of the new book If Not You, Who? Cracking the Code of Employee Disengagement. Jill is passionate about applying her experience to help companies re-engage employees and catapult business results.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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