Management March 2014

Engage your staff

Right people, wrong job or just wrong people?

  • 66% of staff are “checked out”
  • India and South Korea have highest engagement levels
  • Leading by example is key to motivating staff

I have read several articles and surveys recently on employee engagement that made me think: “How do we keep our staff engaged?”

Gallup conducted a survey way back in 2005 called “Grim News for Japan’s Managers”, which revealed that only 9% of people here are engaged in their work. Engaged staff work with passion and have a connection to their employer.

It said that a full 67% of workers were not engaged. These individuals “check out”—they put in the time but are not interested in their tasks or making a connection with the company.

Finally, a staggering 24% were actively disengaged, meaning they were not just unhappy, but were acting out their unhappiness towards other employees. I thought this must have improved since 2005 but, sadly, it has not.

A more recent survey, carried out in 2013 by consulting firm Aon Hewitt, shows that things have not got any better in Japan. In the survey, employees were divided into four groups according to levels of engagement.

The results: 9% were highly engaged, 25% moderately engaged, 33% passive, and another 33% were actively disengaged.

Interestingly, India and South Korea came out on top, with 20% of staff being highly engaged.

Feeling confident, valued, appreciated, inspired, enthused and empowered are the key emotions that lead to engagement.

Fostering these emotions requires building strong relationships with staff and treating them as valuable individuals. The more engaged employees are, the more productive they will be.

Ask yourself the following questions to understand whether your staff are among the 9% highly engaged group or the 66% passive/actively disengaged set.

Do you know what your employees are passionate about?
Do you know what they value most in life?
Do you know their career aspirations?
Do you offer them inspirational leadership?
Do you lead by example (ie, are you highly engaged)?
What are you doing to acknowledge their work?
Do you support and coach them so they can realise their personal goals?
Do you give your staff recognition?

Here are a few strategies to try.

  • Ensure clear two-way communication
  • Walk the floor and ask staff how they are doing
  • Reward and recognise achievement
  • Understand that each employee is different and celebrate those differences
  • Foster and develop strengths
  • Work on weaknesses only if it will help staff develop
  • Lead by example
  • Involve staff in decision-making; don’t just present decisions, changes and re-organisations after they are finalised
  • Provide a challenging environment
  • Offer to mentor the rising stars

Meanwhile, as an employee, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself and/or the boss.

What can I do to better align my individual efforts with the company’s goals and strategy?
I want to do a better job of being accountable for my work. What would be the best way for me to proactively update you?
I have some ideas on how we can improve things around here. I’d like to share them with you and also get your recommendations about who else I should share them with.
What else do I want to learn?
What motivates me?
I’m looking for a bigger challenge. I’ve got some ideas for other projects I could take on, including … What do you think?

If you have a mentor at work, discuss these questions with that person, or consider calling upon the services of a coach to help you. Coaching makes a real difference; just ask the world’s top athletes.

Let’s hope we can raise that statistic of highly engaged employees in Japan—sooner rather than later!