Our last Insight looked at the challenge organizations face with employee engagement. According to Gallup Research, most companies have only 30% of their workers really making a difference in the company. These employees are giving that extra effort in order to see the company grow and succeed.
Half of the company is simply along for the ride. They may not be a drag on the company, but they sure aren’t making things easier for the 30% who are really trying.
That last 20%? They are actually giving extra effort as well, just not the right kind of effort! These people are sabotaging the entire organization, making life miserable for everyone.
So how does an organization change that 30% engagement number that’s held steady for the past 15 years? Adopting these three employee engagement strategies, while they won’t guarantee success, without them, it is a guarantee that your engagement numbers will remain flat for years to come.
As we’ve said numerous times in these Insight entries, developing engaged employees (and engaging cultures) takes exhaustive, consistent, ferocious, deliberate, intense, aggressive, meticulous, and thoughtful energy and effort.
Are all of these words (and the list could be even longer) really necessary for employee engagement? YES! That was really the point of the last Insight entry. Most organizations just talk about employee engagement or do very little in this area. While putting a foosball table in the break from, throwing an occasional pizza party, or having a summer picnic for employees and their families are certainly ideas to consider, doing just one or even all three of these ideas would not be considered aggressive or intense.
So what does an aggressive employee engagement strategy look like? Consider several of the above words.
Deliberate: Employee engagement doesn’t just happen. Organizations, particularly the HR people who are typically responsible for this area, must make employee engagement a top planning priority. Engagement must be part of the yearly goal-setting process.
Consistent: Employee engagement isn’t a quarterly goal. It isn’t an every other year thing. It’s all the time – forever. As long as the organization is in business, employee engagement must be part of the business plan. Let up for just a short time and your engagement scores will begin to flatten if not retreat.
Meticulous: Look for every opportunity to engage employees. Land a big contract? Celebrate with all the employees. Lose a big contract? Involve key employees to explore what happened and how that can be prevented in the future. Examine all your corporate policies and procedures and see how you can engage employees each and every day.
Aggressive: Think big! Ask the question, “What can we do here for the very first time?”
Author and management expert Tom Peters says, “The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization.” In order to increase employee engagement scores, the organization must be committed to listening to employees. This is done on a large scale such as corporate-wide yearly engagement surveys or more frequent pulse surveys and on a smaller scale with supervisors and leaders committed to listening to their direct reports and other employees.
Listening, though, is only half of the equation. Leaders must hear their employees! That doesn’t mean ever single item that is dropped into the suggestion box is implemented. It does mean that employees see the organization improving as a result of their opinions. Employees also want hear back from their leadership, particularly executive leadership, on a regular basis. Employees want to know their hard work and their opinions make a difference in the company!
Everything the organization does, including employee engagement, must reflect the organization’s core values. Is Excellence a core value? How do your employee engagement efforts support and reflect this value? Is Respect a value? Be sure your engagement activities clearly show respect for all of the employees along with customers, vendors, and the community.
So be intense, listen, and reflect your core values as you commit to improving your employee engagement levels. Yes, you’ve been successful with just 30% of employees giving that extra effort. But what if more employees were actively “rowing the boat”? The possibilities are absolutely thrilling!
It’s no secret that employee engagement is low. Most of us have (repeatedly) heard the Gallup research that just over 30% of employees are engaged at work. Another 50% are “not engaged.” Said differently, 50% of employees are simply trading hours for dollars – workers give their company a few hours each day and, in return, the company gives the workers a few dollars. While these “unengaged” workers aren’t necessarily dragging your company down, they are preventing your organization from reaching its true potential.
That last 20%? These “actively disengaged” workers are not only dragging your company down, they are doing so with energy! As one employee engagement video depicts, these workers are drilling holes in the bottom of the boat as they try to sink the organization, taking all of their workers down with them.
Gallup’s most amazing statistic, though, is not the percentage of unengaged and actively disengaged employees. It’s that these figures haven’t changed in 15 years!
Why is this? We’ve been talking about engagement for years yet the needle has barely budged. I think it’s because many organizations have yet to truly address the issue. It’s easy to talk about employee engagement. And it’s easy to check employee engagement with pulse surveys.
But actually moving the engagement needle? That’s the hard part. That takes exhaustive, consistent, aggressive, deliberate, fanatical effort (click here to read a PCC blog about these culture words). Of course, some organizations put this kind of effort behind their employee engagement and culture efforts. As a result, many of these companies make some sort of Top 100 or Best Places To Work list. Unfortunately, there are many more organizations that stop at the employee survey or think throwing a regular pizza party is enough to develop satisfied, engaged employees.
In the Fast Company article titled “The War For Talent Is Over, And Everyone Lost,” authors Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Adam Yearsley state, “Of course, many workers excel in their jobs and make pivotal contributions to their organizations. But for every one employee who does, there are many more who are underemployed, underperforming, and just plain miserable at work.”
But is employee engagement really that big of a deal? Even with miserable employees, many companies not on a Best Workplace list seem to grow and make money. But could they make more money? Will they be able to replace the miserable employees who leave with new, excited employees (who at some point will most likely become miserable)? Can they keep up with their competition? Most importantly, what are their long-term prospects for success?
Another Gallup study can help us here. According to their research, organizations with high employee engagement enjoy:
Gallup’s study along with countless others paint a very clear picture – employee engagement is critical for success. Yes, many companies do fine with unimpressive employee engagement scores. But who thinks “fine” is acceptable? Certainly not a CEO or a corporate shareholder. And what about employees themselves? Would they rather work for a fine company or an outstanding one? Of course, the answer is obvious.
With such clear evidence about the importance of highly engaged workforces, it’s shocking that more companies don’t attack this area with intensity. With flat engagement scores for the last 15 years, it’s clear that most organizations haven’t moved beyond the “blah blah blah” of employee engagement.
So how do you actually move that engagement needle? We’ll answer that question in PCC’s next blog. Until then, let us know what you think of employee engagement. Are you engaged? Does your company “attack” engagement or simply pay lip service to this idea? Join the discussion!
This past Sunday morning while enjoying time with my beautiful bride of almost 30 years, I also enjoyed another one of my favorite things, observing excellent leadership.
When we pulled up to Eggsellent Café in Carrollton, Texas, we noticed people standing outside waiting to be seated. While we wanted to get home to do some weekend gardening, we were not in a huge hurry so decided to join the others who were waiting for their breakfast.
As we sat outside enjoying the wonderful spring weather and making a few new friends as we waited, the restaurant’s owner (“My name is Meff. Just like Jeff but with an M.”) was busy adding names to the waitlist, calling other names to be seated, and visiting with everyone, making all of his customers smile and feel welcomed. He never stopped moving!
After a short 15-minute wait, Meff approached us with a big smile and said, “Your table is ready. Enjoy your breakfast!” Immediately after being seated, our coffee was poured and from that moment on, I never saw the bottom of my coffee mug.
Since our table was right by the door, we saw Meff walk in and out, ushering in new patrons and saying “Thank you. I hope you enjoyed your time with us,” as satisfied customers walked out the door. During a brief break, Meff stopped at our table to ask if we needed anything. I responded by saying how impressed I was with the service. Meff said, “Customer service is everything. If a customer has to raise his or her cup for more coffee, I am disappointed. We must pour the coffee before they ask for it. It is important to make the customer happy.”
Meff went on to say that he works hard to ensure his staff works hard. “I want them to see me constantly moving. If I set the example, then they will work hard as well. After we close, I will buy the entire staff drinks and all the food they want. But while we are serving customers, we must work hard. There is no standing around.” So that’s why my coffee mug was never empty!
Leadership examples don’t get much better than Meff. He cares deeply for his customers. He realizes that other restaurants can cook eggs and pancakes (although I would put Meff’s Belgian waffle against any competitor – it was outstanding!) but setting the tone for the customer experience starts with him. Meff expects his staff to work hard but doesn’t just demand it. He models it! And after a day of serving customers, Meff serves his staff, showing appreciation for a job well done.
That’s why people wait at this restaurant. They could probably go down the street and get seated immediately. But will they get that personal touch from the owner or general manager? Will they receive outstanding customer service? Will they see the bottom of their coffee mug?
So on a beautiful Sunday morning, Meff entered into my personal Leadership Hall of Fame. He gets it. Meff understands that leadership isn’t something you talk about. It isn’t an attitude. Leadership doesn’t bark orders and expect things to happen.
Leadership sets the example.
Why don’t more leaders live by this philosophy? What keeps leaders from leading?
Darren K. Ford
I've enjoyed a great career. Worked in many different industries with great coworkers and customers. I talk to a lot of people while drinking a lot of coffee. I read constantly. From all of this, I have much to say.