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Employee Engagement

Working for a Direct Selling Company

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Article by: Nancy Tobler
June 14, 2016

Direct Selling News recently ran a special section on which direct selling companies are the best to work for (Direct Selling News, April, 2016).  The top companies included Jamberry, Jeunesse, LegalShield, Nu Skin, Team National, USANA and Zurvita. This is a popular topic in both the professional/company consulting world and in academia.  The hot words seem to be “employee engagement.”  The question for all companies is “How do you recruit and keep talented and dedicated people?”

Satisfaction at work has a long history. The whole notion of a need for human resource departments came out of the 1940s and 1950s with work by theorists such as Maslow and Herzberg.  The need for job satisfaction was based on the idea of relieving stress and avoiding boredom. Most people worked in factories in the 1950s. Providing a safe environment and providing ways around boredom (you can only stuff beans into a can for so long) were the key needs.

Today, four-fifths of people work in the service industry.  Manufacturing jobs have moved abroad. The nature of work changed.  Some have suggested that the new millennial employees have changed.  Either way, the business gurus and academics now consider the company challenge to be employee engagement.

The employee engagement model focuses on how an organization can help an employee have positive feelings about work. The employee that is engaged both intellectually and emotionally will have better feelings about work and higher job satisfaction which leads to better organizational outcomes such as efficiency and creativity.

Most people would agree that being an engaged employee and having engaged employees is better for both employees and companies. Employees seem to have an increased need to do meaningful work. Companies can create meaningful work by selling a meaningful product.  Many times direct selling companies promote and choose products that make a difference.  For example some of the early companies like Shaklee produced environmentally friendly products. The meaningful work can also come in the work the company does beyond the customer. Companies like Nu Skin support research on rare skin diseases.  Employees also seem to want more opportunities to grow professionally in their work.

The question remains, what can companies do to create an engaged workplace for employees. The first set of characteristics revolve around information. The information characteristic includes knowledge, assessment, feedback and listening. In general, managers can make expectations known and provide the needed resources an employee needs to do his/her work.  Work cannot be engaging if the employee doesn’t know what they are to do.  The second part of the first characteristic is knowing how they will be measured. Employees also need feedback on how well they are doing.  In addition to giving out information, managers need to listen to employees.  Employees want to know that they have voice in the direction and future of the organization.

Feedback includes praise of employees. Praising employees continues to be an important element in creating the engaged environment.  Early on in the job satisfaction, praise seemed to be the primary focus.  We certainly have not lost the need for recognition. Employees have different needs for recognition and for how they like to receive recognition and even how often they need recognition.  Typically in the early phases of work, we need more recognition than later on in that same work.  However, we all need a boost periodically.  A good manager will recognize (and perhaps even ask) that employees need different types and amounts of recognition.  However, other elements of our work help facilitate engagement.

The second set of characteristics that managers can foster is in employee development. Managers can provide opportunities to grow professionally.  Many companies pay for coursework that improves the employee. Growth can also be personal.  Companies that show they care about employee’s health and wellness goals are also seen positively by employees.

Once a company has set a goal to be engaging, each manager must work to create the environment in their group that fosters the engagement goal. Each manager can set out a tone and feel in their group that does not reflect the overall norm of the company.

Having the opportunity to do meaningful work is the base for employee engagement. Second, providing adequate information and growing as an employee equals employee engagement. Sounds easy.  Obviously keeping employees engaged takes time and adapting to individuals whenever possible.  However, the Direct Selling News report demonstrates that having an engaged employee is possible.

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Nancy Tobler

Nancy Tobler has a PhD in communication from the University of Utah. She specializes in research on how organizations change,...

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