Devastate Business Results
By Chris Powell,
CEO of BlackbookHR
According to Gallup, less
than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged
in their jobs in 2014. This article examines what
the data means for the cable telecom industry.
recent annual employee engagement data contained
some good news and bad news: Engagement was up
in 2014 compared to 2013, but the majority of
U.S. employees are still disengaged. In fact,
more than 17 percent are “actively disengaged,”
and less than a third of all employees are engaged
engaged employees as those who are “involved
in, enthusiastic about and committed to their
work and workplace.” Does this describe
your employees? If not — or if you’re
not sure — you could have a problem that’s
inhibiting your company’s productivity and
its ability to perform to its potential.
Cable telecommunications companies
face unique challenges and risks when it comes
to employee engagement. And only one cable telecom
Integrated Telecommunications Company (du),
was included on Gallup’s Great
Workplace Award list in 2014. By leveraging
their inherent strengths, cable telecom firms
can get a handle on employee engagement, but it
will take effort and resources.
Employee Engagement Challenges
one of the strengths many cable telecom companies
possess also presents a challenge to building
and maintaining employee engagement: diversity.
The wide variety of employees in the cable telecom
industry makes it difficult for organizations
to apply a one-size-fits-all strategy to employee
engagement. Employees in the field who run wires
or install systems are looking for different things
from their work than office employees working
in marketing or accounting. It’s important
for cable telecom companies to understand the
different segments of their workforce and develop
approaches that meet their diverse needs.
Next, whether it’s true
or not, there may be a perception that the cable
telecom industry isn’t growing. That perception
can erode engagement, especially if organizations
don’t communicate their plans for the future
and establish a roadmap showing how they’ll
make those plans reality.
Without concrete plans for the
future, cable telecom companies will find it harder
to compete with technology startups for the top
talent they need to grow. Tech startups, growing
software companies and established tech organizations
alike are looking for the content, production
and digital/technical employees that cable telecom
companies also need. They are finding ways to
engage those employees by offering development
opportunities and establishing strong cultures
and clear missions.
Employee Engagement Risks
By not addressing
these challenges, cable telecom companies face
some serious risks. For companies that distribute
content, low levels of employee engagement can
be particularly devastating. According to Gallup,
engaged employees easily connect with customers,
but those who aren’t engaged may focus less
on customers’ needs. That’s a serious
problem for a group of companies that already
has a reputation for providing poor customer service.
Another risk is employee turnover,
says Janice Turner, former Vice President
of HR at WOW!
Inc., a cable, Internet and telecom
provider. Turnover is a problem especially when
it comes to employees from younger generations
such as millennials and, to some extent, Gen Xers,
too. “They’re always looking forward
to the next gig. If they’re not engaged
or able to contribute somehow, there are other
options for them.”
Whether disengaged employees
leave or stay, cable telecoms also risk losing
full use of their expertise, Turner says. Actively
disengaged employees don’t apply all of
their efforts and talents to their work, and their
employers lose out. Turner says long-term employees
(in this industry that can mean workers who have
been with a company five years) also have institutional
knowledge that represents a risk if they take
a job with a competitor.
a Unique Challenge
The Gallup survey
found millennials are the least engaged generation
in the workforce, and are the least likely to
say they “have the opportunity to do what
they do best" at work.
“Part of the lack of engagement
can come from the fact that they aren’t
able to make a significant difference in the company
in a very short time frame,” Turner says.
“There has to be a leadership role for millennials,
not necessarily in a managerial sense, but by
heading a task force or interest group.”
Pairing them with mentors can help, too.
With many millennials fluent
in modern technology, it’s important that
organizations integrate that interest into the
workday, Turner says. “They want a company
that’s progressive. They can recommend new
technologies, and aligning that interest with
what your company offers can help.”
What You Can Do
With all that’s at stake, it is vital that
cable telecom companies get employee engagement
right as the economy continues to improve. According
to the Bureau
of Labor Statistics, the unemployment
rate in cable telecom hit more than 10 percent
in 2010. It’s now at less than 2.5 percent,
and companies are in stiff competition for top
The industry’s inherent
strengths can be used to boost engagement. Content
producers have an excellent opportunity to connect
employees to the brand. Attending TV meet-and-greets
or participating in a shoot can show employees
how their own work fits into the company’s
Community outreach efforts can
illustrate a company’s values and mission.
Communications has leveraged its
“Say Yes to the Dress” franchise into
an outreach in several cities to make the prom
more accessible for low-income high school girls.
Distributors can use community involvement to
engage their workforce as well: Comcast,
for example, builds community gardens and hosts
clean-ups to improve the local community.
Turner says WOW! opened up its
leadership development program to front-line employees
after being management-only for several years.
“It was our front-line employees who came
forward and said ‘we want to be a part of
this, what will it take?’ That definitely
helped with engagement,” Turner explains.
In addition, the company offers
a Courage Award, which rewards employees when
they learn from mistakes, Turner says. In addition,
the company added courage as a core value. “We
want employees to take risks. That’s how
ranked by Consumer Reports
as the No. 1 cell phone provider for the past
five years, puts a priority on employee engagement,
says CEO John Marick. In addition to
community involvement and recreation activities,
the organization has a recognition program, including
hosting regular lunches to thank employees for
their hard work, and holding all-employee meetings
that boost transparency by giving everyone updates
about the company’s progress and new products
it will be offering.
Whether the economy is
strong or stumbling, engagement will always matter.
Instead of considering it a discretionary line
item, cable telecom companies need to embrace
employee engagement as an essential business priority
to meet the challenges they face staffing and
growing their businesses.