Encouraging Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a hot topic in workplace research. According to a recent Gallup survey,

“The percentage of ‘engaged’ workers in the U.S. — those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace — is now 34%, tying its highest level since Gallup began reporting the national figure in 2000. The percentage who are ‘actively disengaged’ — workers who have miserable work experiences — is now at its lowest level (13%), making the current ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees 2.6-to-1 — the highest ever in Gallup tracking. The remaining 53% of workers are in the ‘not engaged’ category. They may be generally satisfied but are not cognitively and emotionally connected to their work and workplace; they will usually show up to work and do the minimum required but will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer.”

While the engagement increase is good news, it’s still quite likely that something like two thirds of your team is not at peak potential.

Does it matter?

Emphatically yes, according to Kevin Kruse, author of Employee Engagement 2.0. In this Forbes article, he presents arguments from 28 studies detailing the positive impacts of employee engagement. Employee engagement correlates positively to improvements in service, sales, quality, safety, retention, and profit and share holder return.

For instance,

A study of 64 organizations revealed that organizations with highly engaged employees achieve twice the annual net income of organizations whose employees lag behind on engagement. (Source: The Impact of Employee Engagement. Kenexa)

Gallup’s research finds that 70% of the variance between engaged and disengaged teams comes down to management and/or leadership. This has some big ramifications if you are a business owner. It’s probably worth your while to seriously consider the culture of your business and how to facilitate a sense of commitment and motivation in your team.

How to go about this?

Purpose emerges in the research as a crucial factor. Employees report far higher levels of engagement when they understand the mission of the company and feel their work advances the cause in a significant way. They also need to feel a pathway exists for them to learn, develop new skills, and advance personal goals. According to Deloitte,

We need to make sure jobs are meaningful, people have the tools and autonomy to succeed, and that we select the right people for the right job. This is anything but a simple undertaking…We each thrive on our ability to contribute to a greater good, and management’s job is to set goals, support people, coach for high performance, and provide feedback to continuously improve.

Training, trust (and the other side of its coin, accountability), team, and work-life balance all contribute to a sense of fulfillment as well.

Leadership strategy expert Brent Gleeson outlines these check point questions that your team should be able to answer positively:

  • I know what is expected of me and my work quality.
  • I have the resources and training to thrive in my role.
  • I have the opportunity to do what I do best – every day.
  • I frequently receive recognition, praise and constructive criticism.
  • I trust my manager and believe they have my best interests in mind.
  • My voice is heard and valued.
  • I clearly understand the mission and purpose and how I contribute to each.
  • I have opportunities to learn and grow both personally and professionally.

Onward and Upward

While valuable, facilitating change in your work culture is not a simple undertaking. Gleeson warns that leaders should be prepared for challenges in trying to cultivate work culture. “Change is hard, takes longer and usually has higher hard and soft costs than managers and leaders generally plan for. Change can be intensely personal for employees, causes fear and can actually reduce productivity when approached improperly,” he says.

But don’t be daunted, especially if you are planning to sell your business at some point. A well-developed team who will support the mission even when ownership conveys is a major selling point.