Sounds good doesn’t it or after a spot of self-reflection, is depression beginning to seep in? Why don’t we get more engaged, energized and motivated employees? Is HR just hiring the wrong people, are we simply unlucky or is our management culture and practice the problem?
Buzz words really fly off the shelves, but just what is "engagement"? Here is a simple definition: "Engagement is a high level of involvement and commitment an employee has toward their job, organisation and the organisation’s values". 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 an individual has regarding the sense of meaning, purpose, accomplishment and connection with others and the organization.
Japan is a nation of diligent souls. Here you see people standing out in the rain and cold handing out promotional tissue packs, until they are all distributed. In most countries, check the nearest dumpster 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 brimming 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 species – the disengaged employee? Disengagement is not free by the way. It costs money. It results in decreased productivity, increased turnover and lower morale. Look for these two varieties of employee: the unengaged employee - may not be harmful and may just be circling the organization in a holding pattern. They may specialize in doing the minimum to get by, may lack motivation and commitment, avoid challenges and be just drifting dream like through their worklife.
The other variety, the disengaged employee, 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 changes and undermine management and colleagues. How do people get to this point? Could you or your management system be the problem?
Take a quick test. Do you have these perspectives about the people in your charge:
- Everyone is the same (like me).
- Everyone wants the same thing out of work (like what I want).
- Everyone wants to be promoted (of course they do).
- Everyone wants to be a manager (of course they do).
- Everyone wants to live up to your expectations (of course - I’m their boss).
How did you go? Are you expecting the team to eat, breathe and sleep work (like you do)? Do you ever acknowledge and respect the importance of family 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?
There are no shortage of survey results that reinforce that we leave managers rather than companies. 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 that the boss can be trusted. Incidently, praise is free! Take a reality check - right now, stop reading and write down the last time you used any of it on your employees?
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 organizations success. When was the last time you did this? What did you do? Do you actually believe it is necessary?
Stimulating and valuable work comes out ahead of salary and advancement. Managers who foster involvement of employees and include them early on 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?
Receiving personal and professional development coaching from their boss keeps people engaged, working hard and loyal. At the same time, pay them fairly and competitively and they will stay put. Thinking you need to run the "robots" hard with no down time, may release short term gains, but it blows up the culture and then the business. Are you blowing up the business without knowing it?
Are you engaging them intellectually by clarifying and communicating their role in achieving the organisation’s vision, mission and objectives? Can anyone actually recall the vision, for a start, and their place in achieving it, if I suddenly turn up and ask? How about engaging them emotionally, creating feelings of personal satisfaction, meaning, purpose, accomplishment and connection? What steps were taken to build this type of culture?
The really destructive, psycho problem children employees are very, very few and the dirty little secret about lack of engagement in employees is because it’s usually management’s fault. If that is a bit confronting, then go back to the start of this article and place a check mark against every question, where I question if your management team are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Invest in developing your managers and you will have an engaged team. Simple, not easy but fundamental for success!