Improving Employee Engagement Begins With You
Watch this short video to learn what employee engagement looks like and how you can begin to achieve it at your company.
What Does Employee Engagement Look Like?
Engagement is an active state. It’s not a passive state. It’s a very focused level of attention, which Gallup defines as involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to the work and workplace. Gallup has been measuring workplace engagement since the year 2000. They report that 50% of employees are not engaged at work, while a whopping 17% are actively disengaged. That’s 1.7 out of every 10 workers who hate their job. Only about 30% of employees appear to be fully engaged in their work. Experts estimate that the disengagement epidemic costs the U.S. economy an estimated $350 Billion. It is not hard to arrive at this figure when you consider that out of the 153 million people employed in the United States, 100 million of them are not bringing their full attention, focus, and stamina to their job. Do these engagement statistics represent those at your workplace? What is it costing your business to have 7 out of 10 employees feel disengaged? Do you have a list of unfulfilled projects and waiting to be executed strategies? What would the upside be if 100% of your employees were fully engaged?
The dictionary defines engagement as the action of occupying, attracting or involving someone’s interest or attention. To engage means to participate or become involved in. Engaged employees are thus active and involved stakeholders in your business. They are the ones who will go the extra mile, stay late, finish the last minute report, and give up the happy hour with their friends when they are on a deadline. These are engaged choices and your employees will make them voluntarily. They will not choose these actions because you’re asking or demanding them, but because they want to make them and because they feel a connection to the mission of your company. Engaged employees solve problems. They are passionate about what they do and they care about business success because they have a stake in the success of the team they work with.
Disengaged employees are passengers in your business. They are coming along for the paycheck and they are there only to collect a paycheck. They feel no affinity for your enterprise and they’ve given up on meaningful changes or improvements in the business. They don’t care about your company or the success of your business because they don’t feel cared for by the business. They have little to no stake in the success of the organization because they have no stake in the results. This is probably the biggest disconnect that has led to two decades of not moving the employee engagement needle in a positive direction.
People who are disengaged feel as though they have no stake in your business because they see themselves as having no stake in the results. I had a director level client in a company tell me he was not interested in giving up his best ideas to help senior Vice Presidents get bigger bonuses. He planned on reserving those for his side hustle. If you think his example is the exception think again. By 2020 50% of employees are expected to have some form of freelance status, whether they are working a full-time job or not and how engaged they are in your company will have real effects on your bottom line as well as your company’s ability to beat out competitors during the hiring process. Potential new hires can smell disengagement from a mile away and they will want nothing to do with a company whose workforce is bored, unenthusiastic, and unhappy.
We Are Meant To Be Engaged
The natural condition of human beings is to be engaged. Creating engagement in the corporate world is not about employee engagement programs, but rather about undoing the corporate belief systems that only benefit executives and mutual funds, value profit over people, drive the churn for quarterly returns, and essentially ask people to be machines. It is about undoing leaders tendency to bark orders and expect people to perform on demand without ever asking them for their input or listening to and accepting new ideas. Fostering engagement is also about undoing the promoting and retaining of bad managers.
Employee Engagement Shift #1: Mindset
The mindset shift is about realizing that fostering engagement is not just a company-wide solution. If you’re in Human Resources you can and should help, but engagement is a leader by leader, team by team result of doing a few things consistently and well.
Think about engagement in the context of your life. Where are you passionate about what you’re doing and where do you have a personal stake in the outcome? When you feel a compelling desire for something, it’s like something is pulling you toward it. It is not because someone else tells you it’s important. Another person can help you realize your passion, but the desire is inside of you. Every single human being comes installed with a desire chip. As a manager, you have to care about what connects people to a compelling desire related to their job. Who do you help? Whose life do you improve? If connecting people to that was the only thing you did well you would start to see engagement in your organization go up.
Employee Engagement Shift #2: What Drives Employees Through Hard Times?
What drives you through the inevitable hard stuff or the challenges when you’re trying to make a change happen or you’re trying to achieve or realize a goal? If the only touchstone people have is meet the numbers, which puts money in someone else’s pocket, or “the boss said so”, a person’s engagement will always be weak. If the touchstone is “I’m seriously into this” and “I will do whatever it takes” the engagement will be strong. Commitment is an outcome of engagement, but it is also an input to engagement. It is a cycle that you can get people into if you remind them of their “why” on a frequent basis you’ve activated their desire chip.
Employee Engagement Shift #3: Unleash Creativity
How can we shift the center of gravity from making the numbers to unleashing creativity in the corporate world? Innovation is the way of the future. One simple way we can do this is to share the numbers. Profit sharing should be a mandate for every single company regardless of size, industry, public or private. Every single person deserves to have a portion of their compensation be tied to the results that they are responsible for.
To really address the engagement crisis we have to address the creative void that’s happening across the corporate world. This void is the active shutting off of ideas in the quest for efficiency and consistency. Remember, engagement is an active process of undoing and removing obstacles that choke people’s natural desire to engage. You do not have to motivate or engage people because passionate people will rise up and accomplish amazing feats of their own accord.
What will you do today to uncover and undo the disengagement epidemic and its impact on your organization? It begins with you and it happens one person and one team at a time.