Employee Engagement– Its Very Big Deal: Leading Indicator for Work Performance & Critical for Business Outcomes Success…

‘Turned-on’ people figure out how to beat the competition—‘Turned-off’ people only complain about being beaten by the competition. Developing a highly engaged and productive workforce is a non-negotiable requirement.

Employee engagement, or worker engagement, is a business management concept; where an engaged employee is fully involved and enthusiastic about their work, and thus will act in a way that furthers their own and the organization’s interests. Whereas, under engaged or disengaged employees, typically just go through the motions of completing their daily duties with minimum effort, and exhibit little passion or creativity. Employee engagement is essential to succeed in business, yet few organizations define, measure, or manage a sustainable model.

According to ‘The Conference Board’, fewer than half of U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs, and even more are disengaged. According to ‘Scarlett’, employee engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues, and organization that profoundly influences willingness to learn and perform at work’. Engagement is distinctively different from employee satisfaction, motivation, and organizational culture. Let’s be clear.

The terms employee engagement and employee satisfaction are not synonymous.  Employees can be quite satisfied with their job, company, and their place in it, without ever engaging in the work. Think about it. Have you ever had an employee or colleague who was perfectly satisfied to come to work every day where they could happily surf the web, Facebook with their friends, or play computer games? Perhaps that’s a bit extreme, but we all know employees who are satisfied with being left alone in their mediocrity.

Engaged employees, on the other hand, are passionate and alive with the desire to perform well and do so in alignment with the  organization’s strategic objectives. These are the employees for whom you need to create an environment in which they want to engage for the long-term. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between engaged and disengaged workers and the relative success of the organization…

In the article Management’s Dirty Little Secret by Gary Hamel writes: The ‘Global Workforce Survey’ conducted by Towers Perrin, an HR consultancy; polled more than 90,000 workers in 18 countries and measured the extent of employee engagement. The study findings include: Barely one-fifth (21%) of employees are truly engaged in their work, in the sense that they would ‘go the extra mile’ for their employer. Nearly four out of ten (38%) are mostly or entirely disengaged, while the rest are in the tepid middle.

This data represents a stinging indictment of legacy management practices found in most companies. How do we account for this heedlessness? There are several possible hypotheses, including: Ignorance; Indifference; Impotence. The first hypothesis, ignorance, seems to me unlikely. Anybody who has ever read a Dilbert strip knows that cynicism and passivity are endemic in large organizations.

Only an ostrich could have missed this. The second hypothesis, indifference, has more to recommend. I believe there are many managers who have yet to grasp the essential connection between engagement and financial success. Companies that score high on engagement have better earnings growth and fatter margins than those that do not… Today, no leader can afford to be indifferent to the challenge of engaging employees in the work of creating the future. Engagement may have been optional in the past, but it’s pretty much the whole game today.

What about the third hypothesis, impotence? Surprisingly, 86% of employees in the Towers Perrin study said they loved or liked their job. So what, then, are the culprits? Julie Gebauer, who heads ‘Workforce Effectiveness Practice’ at Towers Perrin, says; Survey data suggests this might be a senior management issue: Only 38% of employees believe that senior management is sincerely interested in employee well-being. Less than 40% say that senior management communicates openly and honestly. Scant 40% of employees believe that senior management communicates the reasons for business decisions, while 44% believe that senior management tries to be visible and accessible. Perhaps most damning of all, less than 50% polled believe that senior management decisions are consistent with their values...

In the report “Social Knows: Employee Engagement Statistics” by Elizabeth Lupfer writes: Here are a few key findings from the report:

  • Lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the U.S. economy $370 billions annually. (Gallup)
  • 70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of non-engaged employees say the same. (Wright Management)
  • 78% of engaged employees would recommend their company’s products, against 13% of the disengaged. (Gallup)
  • 67% engaged employees advocate their company or organization against only 3% of the disengaged. (Gallup)
  • 86% of engaged employees say they very often feel happy at work, as against 11% of the disengaged. 45% of the engaged say they get a great deal of their life happiness from work, against 8% of the disengaged. (Gallup)
  • 75% of leaders have no engagement plan or strategy even though 90% say engagement impacts on business success. (ACCOR)

In the article Employee Engagement: Nobody Cares by Edward Muzio writes: Nobody cares:  Well, that’s an overstatement. Some people care. In fact, some organizations are tackling the challenge of employee engagement and getting good results. If you want to cheer up a little, check out Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list. But don’t cheer up too much. On the whole, we’re trending the wrong way.

We’ve all heard first-hand horror stories of workplaces filled with inept, apathetic workers who drag everyone else down. In the process, they cripple their whole group’s ability to produce useful output. Clearly, either not enough people care about employee engagement, or not enough people know what to do about it, or both: ‘Both’ is a troubling notion.

Knowledge can lead to interest, and interest can lead to knowledge. But ‘nobody knows and nobody cares’ is a signal flare… It’s an attitude that quickly converts to a pattern of behavior that shuts down information transfer, marginalize improvement efforts and saps every one of the creativity they need to solve problems in today’s complex workplace. I don’t know and I don’t care is like the organizational plague.

So, as we teeter on the edge of epidemic– put your interest and knowledge together and become just a little bit of the antidote.  Here’s how:  First, engage with the engaged. Focus praise, attention, and resources on those employees who are engaged. Second, ask people about their incentives. That doesn’t mean asking people if they wish to get higher pay. It means asking people, beginning with the most engaged, what they find interesting, engaging, or motivating about their job.

Remember, though, the more time you spend interacting with the disgruntled, more likely you are to become that way, too… On the other hand, more time you spend engaging with the engaged, more connected to the work you’re likely to feel, and the less you feed– ‘nobody knows, nobody cares’ mentality…

In the article “Employee Engagement in a Social Media World by Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin writes: In study after study, research shows that employee engagement boosts productivity, cuts costs and builds revenues. Engaged employees do have a significant impact on sales, and that’s one of the primary reasons employee engagement has become a priority for many CEOs.

Many companies rely on intranets and email to reach employees. When you don’t have the benefit of face-to-face interactions, there is nothing better than social media for building community. Good news is that early adopters of social media for employee engagement, such as; IBM, Quicken Loans and Nokia, have found little-to-no issues with their implementations. Quicken Loans launched The Diff, a public-facing blog written by employees… IBM, however, has chosen to keep their social media in-house by starting Blue Twit and Social Blue, their own internal social media networks that mimic Twitter and Facebook. Nokia developed Socialcast, an internal hybrid of Facebook and Twitter.

Also, there is mobile technology for reaching employees… applications for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all enable employees to check-in on company news on their breaks.  Keep in mind that the younger generations of employees don’t place the same sort of boundaries between their work lives and their personal lives. It can feel completely natural for them to get work communications through the same information pipelines they use for their personal interests.

Brands that don’t embrace social media will be missing the boat on the media preferences of many employees.  For forward-looking companies, social media provides rich engagement opportunities to build communities of employees by sharing company news, knowledge transfer and best practices…

According to Alan Schweyer; ‘The Economics of Engagement’ says; disengaged employees are estimated to cost the U.S. economy as much as $350 billion per year in lost productivity… A major opportunity for corporate performance improvement and employee retention lies in engaging the workforce to drive better customer engagement, better revenue, and higher profits.

Schweyer points out that; most leaders and organizations know the difference between a fully engaged worker and one that is marginally engaged or disengaged. The former brim with enthusiasm, they contribute ideas, are optimistic about the company and its future, are seldom absent from work, they typically stay with the organization longer and are among the organization’s most valuable ambassadors.

An analysis by Gallup, of 199 studies, in 152 organizations, 44 industries, and 26 countries; showed that high employee engagement delivers uplift– in business performance numbers: Profitability up 16%, productivity up 18%, customer loyalty up 12%, and quality up an incredible 60%.

In a study by ‘Modern Survey’; number of ‘fully engaged’ employees has dropped to record low 8%, number of ‘under engaged’ employees has risen to record high of 42%, and cumulative total number of employees either ‘under engaged’ or ‘disengaged’ has also reached new record high of 70%. However, total number of employees reporting that they are actively seeking new employment opportunity, elsewhere, is only 21%. 

In summary, although many employees appear to be unhappy or uncommitted they are not actively searching new job opportunity– the down economy may be a factor. Also, while these various studies differ they all have the same basic conclusion: Highly engaged employees outperform their disengaged counterparts by a wide-margin (i.e., 20–28 percentage points).

Finally, there is evidence that companies are responding to employee engagement challenge– by flattening chains of command, providing training for managers and implementing better internal communications…

The type of employee commitment is critical; employees who ‘want to belong’ to the organization are more likely to perform better than those who ‘need to belong’.