An interesting factoid from staffing firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas that appeared on the back of a recent issue of HR Executive: “54% of HR executives consider employee engagement the biggest challenge that companies face after job-cut announcements.”

Makes sense to me that HR professionals would be most concerned with layoff announcements, followed immediately by the impact those announcements will have on engagement. Now that 2010 planning has begun in earnest, leadership beyond the HR suite should have engagement top of mind as they prepare for economic recovery.

I’m a fan of John Hollon’s columns in Workforce Management. He spoke with wisdom on this topic recently:

“So what will it take for us to get out of this economic morass we’re in? Here’s a simple answer that is frighteningly obvious: Invest in your workforce and make it a point to help them to feel more hopeful and confident that things are going to get better next year. … What I’m talking about is a concerted effort by managers to boost the sagging spirits of workers and help pull them out of the funk they’re in.

“Yes, all those who have managed to avoid becoming another unemployment statistic should be happy that they’re still working. But that’s not exactly a rallying cry for improving engagement in 2010. … Businesses everywhere need to truly engage workers and help them get past the bad feelings that so many have about their organisations and their jobs.”

A focus of 2010 planning for many will be getting employees back in alignment with new strategic priorities, new organisational structures, and new personal goals – all designed to position the company for success when the economy turns. But alignment is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need your employees willingly working hard and giving discretionary effort to help achieve those strategic priorities – that’s engagement. And that’s where the bottom-line value lies. No company can afford to leave on the table the millions in profits possible through a more highly engaged workforce.

My posts this week will look more deeply at new research on these topics of 2010 planning for the recovery.

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