…Both are important; how to develop more engaged employees
Let’s start by saying that we have been talking about employee satisfaction, employee engagement, employee dissatisfaction, and many other terms that describe the state of how employees feel about their job and their organization for quite some time. This is not a new topic, but, interestingly, employers continue to struggle with increasing employee engagement.
If I could challenge you for a moment to do a quick evaluation of your employees that currently work for you, and your peers, that you could probably quickly assess how many of individuals are your shining stars and those who are your bench strength, those you can rely upon to get work done and nothing more (having those folks is not a bad thing). Normally the category of “shining star” (the “engaged”) is a lower percentage than the “bench strength” number, but hopefully it is higher than the “disengaged” category. Unfortunately, every organization has some level of disengagement. What to do and how to handle disengaged employees is an entirely different conversation for another day, perhaps in another newsletter.To set the context, the definition of a satisfied and engaged employee.
The extent to which employees are content with their job and work environment, ie. job duties, compensation/benefits, important personal needs about work are being met, and talk in language “what’s in it for me”.
The extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work, ie. they possess an emotional connection to the organization, they regularly put in extra hours, take on discretionary responsibilities, and talk in language “what’s in it for us”.
Does this shift your opinion about who are your shining stars and your bench strength? We could have a lively debate differentiating some of the idiosyncrasies between the two definitions, but I will say that they are different and some of the characteristics are easily apparent, and some are more subtle conditions that are determined through regular dialogue about performance and expectations, both from the employee and their leader.
The intent of this article is to offer some practical ways for organizations to increase their level of employee engagement.
To start, let’s put this into perspective. We have seen for years the statistics that tell us how organizations collectively have been impacted into the billions of dollars by lost productivity. Every organization will vary, but common sense tells us that lost productivity will certainly impact an organization’s bottom line results, no question.
If we think about it in practical terms, if even 10% of an organization has actively disengaged or poor performing employees there is a financial impact, as leaders and other employees are being moved away from their own responsibilities to fill in gaps, part time or contract people are hired to help, important details get missed resulting in unsatisfied customers or lost business, and so on. This alone is why we should care about increasing employee engagement! For example, in an organization with 500 employees, that would be 50 employees who are not meeting their deliverables and producing inaccurate or poor work quality. If another 60% (300 employees) are satisfied employees but not overly engaged it won’t be enough to drive exceptional performance that produces business results. Those are big numbers to manage.
The burning question is, then, how many engaged employees does an organization need, and should all employees be in the engaged category? The answer is no, and it is not realistic. There is no magic number, however, more highly satisfied and engaged employees will drive your bottom lines results higher. I came across a statistic that states that revenue expectations are 23% higher than those companies who do not have higher engagement levels. Of course, statistics are always interesting, and for smaller companies with a lower employee base, having highly productive employees will make a larger impact.
My response to organizations is that they need to pay attention to what is going on inside their organizations with respect to their human capital, overall performance, leaders leading in a way that inspires their employees and are accountable to meet their deliverables, employees displaying the behaviors that are expected of them (how are they handling problematic office politics?), how quickly performance issues are being addressed, sharing information with employees, etc. If you were to conduct a comprehensive review you would discover, initially, that you have some areas to improve upon. Collecting analytics will further confirm your assessments.
So, what can organizations do to shift their engagement levels? This is a big initiative, a serious undertaking that takes the commitment of every leader in the organization. Your Core Values will be (should be)! challenged in the way you work towards them.
- Seek alignment with all leaders that employee engagement is a priority in the organization and make it a business objective. Assess readiness to undertake this change. I advise my clients that awareness and readiness is critical, and collectively you must identify why this is important to your organization, now, and be prepared to lead and model new behaviors that will be expected of you. Additionally, some financial resources will be required to support some level of change.
- Collect feedback from your employees to better understand where they at. Most organizations achieve this by conducting an Employee Engagement Survey. With these analytics you will be able to plan and implement specific strategies to increase engagement.
- Know where your employees are in their current state and where they want to be in the short/long term. If the work that they are doing is inspiring to them, and they have the support and tools to do their job well, there is a much higher chance of the employee being more engaged in their work. On the flip side, if employees are not in a role that suits their interest or they do not possess the right skills, or have the support to be successful, they will not be a well-performing employee. Assessing and acting on these gaps is an important step to increasing engagement.
- To springboard from #3: Get serious about Performance Management. Ensure that your annual review and/or regular interaction with your program happens on time, with intent, and one that fosters open and honest dialogue about employee’s performance. Most employees look for feedback from their leader whether it is a formal performance review or through informal conversation. I encourage the latter as regular dialogue builds rapport and trust and heightens the relationship between leader and employee, as well, situations that arise are handled quickly in the moment.
- Set clear expectations of your employees, and seek to ensure understanding and alignment of those expectations. If you do goal setting, ensure that the goals are measurable and you are having conversations throughout the year about the progress in reaching those goals.
- Offer personal development opportunities. The new age of worker seeks employers who will support and help them grow in their career.
- Follow up and follow through on your promises. Leaders who do this consistently gain more respect and a loyal following.
Always, we are here to help our colleagues. We want your feedback, comments and questions about your Performance Management experience. If you have any questions about how these Performance Improvement concepts can be applied to your work group and/or your organization, please let us know and we will be happy to assist.
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