This title sounds good doesn’t it or, after a spot of self-reflection, is depression beginning to seep in? Why don’t we have more engaged, energised and motivated employees? Is HR just hiring the wrong people, are we simply unlucky or is our management culture and practise the problem?
So just what is “engagement”? Here is our take: “Engagement is a high level of involvement and commitment an employee has towards their job, organisation and the organisation’s values”. We found that this operates at two levels: intellectual and emotional.
Intellectual engagement describes the feelings an individual has regarding their relationship with the overall corporation and their role as it relates to the organisation’s vision, mission and objectives. Emotional engagement is about the feelings of personal satisfaction one has regarding the sense of meaning, purpose, accomplishment and connection with others and the organisation. Great, but so what?
Japan is a nation of diligent souls. People stand out in the rain and cold handing out promotional tissue packs, until they are all distributed. In most countries, check the nearest skip to find out how the distribution actually went! Diligence is fine and we enjoy the fruits of it here, but how to spot that rarer, more valuable bird—the truly “engaged employee”?
Is your team populated with self-starters, self-motivated, self-driven, self-disciplined, initiative takers? Are they creative, imaginative and innovative? Do they demonstrate commitment and go the extra mile? Do they have positive attitudes and spread positive energy? Are they great team players?
How do we spot that other more challenging species—the non-engaged employee? Non-engagement is not free by the way. It costs money, results in decreased productivity, increased turnover and lower morale.
Look out for these two types of employee: the unengaged and the disengaged.
The unengaged employee may not be harmful and might just be circling the organisation in a holding pattern. They may specialise in doing the minimum to get by, lack motivation and commitment, avoid challenges and be just drifting dream-like through their work life.
The disengaged employee, however, is more harmful and dangerous. They are unhappy and make sure their negative attitude infects those around them. Performance goes down, absenteeism goes up and morale sinks. They are experts at focusing on everything that is wrong, resist change and undermine management and colleagues.
How do people get to this point?
When we join new firms, we are usually highly motivated and engaged. Why do things come adrift? Could you or your management system be the problem?
Take a quick “Executive Insights” test. Do you have these perspectives about the people in your charge:
1. Everyone is the same (like me).
2. Everyone wants the same thing out of work (like what I want).
3. Everyone wants to be promoted (of course they do).
4. Everyone wants to be a manager (of course they do).
5. Everyone wants to live up to your expectations (of course—I’m their boss).
How did it go—all “yes” responses? Are you expecting the team to eat, breathe and sleep work (like you do)? Do you ever acknowledge and respect the importance of family, downtime and personal life?
Child care, parent care, single parent households, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z—the world has moved on from the old model, but have you and your managers moved with it? Talk to your staff and be prepared to be shocked about how little you have in common!
There is no shortage of survey results reinforcing the fact that we leave managers rather than firms. Disengaged employees do a good deal of damage on the way out the door. What can we do about it?
A key indicator of employee satisfaction and productivity is their belief that the boss cares about them and can be trusted.
Incidentally, praise is free! Take a reality check—right now, stop reading and write down the last date and time you praised any of your employees? Having trouble?
Appreciation and involvement are cited more often than money as to what keeps employees happy. They need to be convinced, verbally and nonverbally, that you respect their position and that they are important to the organisation’s success.
When was the last time you did this? What did you do? Do you actually believe it is necessary? Brace yourself for expensive turnover if you don’t.
Stimulating and valuable work often comes out ahead of salary and advancement in surveys. Managers who foster involvement of employees and include them early on in projects obtain more creative ideas and create greater employee investment and pride in the outcome. Is this your organisation’s culture? Is this how you run your shop?
Employees are looking for opportunities for growth and development, both personally and professionally. Are you consciously investing in your people? Do you have a developmental system that allows you to promote from within? What message are you sending if you don’t?
Receiving personal and professional development coaching from their boss keeps people engaged, working hard and loyal. Done any one-on-one coaching lately? If not, why? Too busy?
So you are in charge of people but are too busy to invest in them, yet you still want a big result—have I got that right? In addition, pay them fairly and competitively and they will stay put.
Simply running the “robots” hard with no down time, may release short-term gains, but it blows up the culture and then the business. Are your expectations blowing up the business without you even being aware of it? They are just like me, right? Maybe not!
Are you engaging them intellectually by clarifying and communicating their role in achieving the organisation’s vision, mission and objectives?
If someone suddenly turned up and asked, would anyone actually recall the vision, and then be able to articulate their place in achieving it? How about engaging them emotionally, creating feelings of personal satisfaction, meaning, purpose, accomplishment and connection? What steps are being taken by you to build this type of culture? Maybe none?
The really destructive, psycho, problem-children employees are very, very few. The dirty little secret about lack of engagement in employees is that it’s usually management’s fault. If that is a bit confronting, well sorry!
Final reality check—go back to the start of this article and check your answers against every question where I ask if your management team are doing what they are supposed to be doing. How did it go?
Invest in developing your managers and you will have an engaged team. Simple, yet not easy, but fundamental for success!