THE BLOG
07/07/2014 02:56 pm ET | Updated Sep 05, 2014

All Your Employee Needs Is Love

As I watched the NYC Pride Parade go down 5th avenue in all its glittery, wonderfully musical, rainbow glory, I was struck not only by the love and positive energy that filled the air, but also by the noticeable number of corporate floats bursting with employees in different colored t-shirts, tossing giveaways into the crowd. While cynics (and likely realists) would view this as a PR stunt and question the authenticity of such a gesture, I thought there was something to be said for companies who support, advocate for and stand by the side of their employees, encouraging them to fully be themselves.

At APCO Worldwide, we talk about the 4 A's of stakeholder engagement as part of our Champion Brand model: Alignment, Authenticity, Attachment and Advocacy. When a company successfully performs against all four, it strengthens its brand and reputation, and deepens its relationships with stakeholders, contributing to the sustainable growth and long-term success of the company. This model applies to an often overlooked but one of the most important stakeholder groups: employees.

Employees, just like any other stakeholder group, have expectations for companies -- and particularly for those that employ them. By sincerely aligning itself with key employee interests and advocating on behalf of employees on these issues, companies can serve as champions, increase engagement and deepen the level of mutual commitment throughout their organization.

With the global talent shortage looming and the duration of time a typical employee spends at a company declining, attracting, retaining and managing talent has become a top priority for business and HR leaders. According to the 2014 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends research, 79 percent of business and HR leaders view employee retention and engagement as urgent or important. It's no secret that engaging your employees is good for business, yielding lower turnover rates and increased productivity - both of which drive growth. The challenge many employers face, however, is not only how to manage and engage employees, but how to specifically manage and engage the many demographics of employees.

HR consulting firms are having a field day coming up with Millennial strategies, women strategies, etc. Endless research has been dedicated to discover the best policies and practices for managing and retaining these groups of employees. Mentoring and flexible work hours are thought to be some of the best strategies to retain, support and promote female employees. Millennials are said to want companies that focus on innovation and prioritize business impact on society, while maintaining work-life balance and receiving regular performance evaluations. As a millennial woman, what this boils down to for me is a desire for employers to understand the unique needs and interests of these groups and to demonstrate this understanding by supporting them through company policies, practices and activities. Ultimately, employees want a little recognition and love.

Employees want to feel as though their managers and companies have a vested interest in their success, not only because of the revenue it will bring in but because they care about their employees as people. Like a good friend, a good employer will know what his team is passionate about, what they enjoy spending their time doing and where they see themselves going. The investment of resources not only in training and development but also in fully understanding and engaging employees can help ensure that they stay, grow and thrive.

Policies such as giving employees the opportunity to direct corporate philanthropy dollars to causes of their choice, sponsoring a float at the NYC Pride Parade, or allowing flexible work hours and telecommuting indicate how much a company values its employees, not only as productive engines, but also as individuals. The days of being a cog in a machine are over, and a little can go a long way in embracing the needs and interests of your employees by showing that you understand and care.