Are you frustrated that your efforts to create employee engagement are falling short? Rest assured you’re not alone. This week’s post is inspired by a question I received from a podcast listener:
“Alex, I’m totally on board with positive leadership…I feel like I’m doing a lot of the things you talk about on the show, but I’m really struggling to get my employees fully engaged at work. They seem happy, and I’ve definitely taken measures to make it a cool place to work. We have social events once a month, we have a pool table, and some other games where people can take a break, but it seems like these things might be hurting rather than helping. I’m just not sure what to do next. I would love your thoughts on how to get them more energized and engaged in what they’re doing in their jobs and what we’re doing as an organization.”
Unfortunately, this note is typical of what I hear from exasperated leaders all too frequently. So, let’s dig into this using the go-to source for employee engagement research, The Gallup Organization. Their portfolio is filled with decades of data and you can dive in to all their work and free reports right here: www.gallup.com
Why Employee Engagement Matters
Research among 82,000 teams covering 1.8 million employees in 230 organizations across 73 countries reveals engaged business units outperform disengaged business units on numerous measures:
- 17% more productive
- 21% more profitable
- 20% more sales
- 10% higher customer ratings
- 41% lower absenteeism
- 42% less turnover
- 40% fewer defects
However, shockingly, only 15% of employees worldwide are actively engaged on the job. In the United States, employee engagement is a bit better, weighing in at 34%. But still, wow! We have a lot of room to improve employee engagement, right?
What Engaged Employees Do To Add Value
So, what is the special value that engaged employees bring to the table? A lot!
According to Ken Royal at Gallup, engaged employees:
- Find a way to work through or around challenges.
- Operate optimally by being strengths-focused.
- Have a plan and take the initiative to improve.
- Take accountability for their actions and results.
That all sounds like heaven on earth to positive leaders because it’s about achieving organizational excellence by engaging employees and focusing on the good and what’s going well. A worthy goal, indeed, but it often doesn’t work as planned…and that’s where the frustration comes in…
Why Most Efforts to Increase Employee Engagement Don’t Work
There are essentially three main reasons why employee engagement efforts fall short:
1. Job satisfaction is not the same as job engagement.
The connection between job satisfaction and productivity is not as strong as the connection between engagement and productivity.
- Job satisfaction means an employee enjoys their job.
- Job engagement means an employee is motivated to show up, do their best, and is committed to the organization and its goals.
A lot of the time, leaders are focusing on increasing job satisfaction, but the key to success is to focus on engagement.
You see, engagement comes from finding meaning in what we do, being motivated…and yes, when we feel that way, we’ll likely be satisfied at work…so engagement usually leads to satisfaction, but satisfaction doesn’t always lead to engagement.
2. Not measuring what matters.
Another reason that engagement efforts don’t always work is because leaders either aren’t measuring what they’re doing, or they’re measuring the wrong thing or using low standards.
For example, if you’re running a sales department, then sure, you could include revenue as a measure that you want to track to see if more sales are being made as engagement increases. But, if you’re running a research department that is not directly responsible for bringing in revenue, then hooking engagement to revenue or profitability isn’t going to make sense, because as the leader of that research department you have no control over those measures. You can only control what you can control…and you should only measure what you can actually impact. Otherwise, what’s the point?
3. Labeling the initiative as an “HR Thing”
When an initiative is viewed as an Human Resources program it is the kiss of death because leaders fail to take ownership. The success of change is dependent on whether leadership embraces, endorses, and embodies it. As a positive leader, you are responsible for leading the employee engagement initiative. Don’t believe me? Consider this stark statistic from Gallup: 70% of the variance in employee engagement is due to how people are managed. Or stated another way: people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. Yup, like it or not, the onus to engage employees is on us as leaders.
Now that you have insight into why your employee engagement efforts have come up short, let’s focus on solutions. How can we effectively increase employee engagement?
4 Steps That Are Proven to Increase Employee Engagement
Here are four strategies, developed from Gallup’s extensive work:
1. Meet employees basic needs.
- Make sure employees know what is expected of them.
- Equip employees with the resources they need to do their jobs.
2. Ensure employees feel valued.
- Use a strengths-based approach so your team members get to do what they do best every day. You can read more about this approach in my post, The Key to Unleashing Your Organization’s Potential.
- Recognize and reward good work.
- Let employees know they matter, and you care about them.
3. Cultivate an atmosphere for good quality relationships.
- One of the key indicators of an employee’s intention to leave a company is whether they have a best friend at work. Revisit my post, Harness the Power of Positive Relationships in Your Organization to learn more about the importance of positive relationships.
4. Support opportunity for growth and advancement.
- Communicate opportunities for advancement and professional development.
- Help employees find resources and support them in their efforts.
- Provide opportunities to stretch your employees in the direction of desired growth.
If you think these steps make you sound more like a coach than a boss, you are right! Positive leaders cultivate employee engagement through understanding employee roadblocks and offering support, whereas a boss is only interested in the output.
So, is increasing employee engagement challenging? Yes, but it’s well worth the effort. You can track your employee engagement efforts with Gallup’s free 12 question survey.
If you want a deeper discussion on this topic, tune in to my podcast episode, How to increase employee engagement in 4 simple steps.
If you want to be a positive leader who gets top results, or if you want Alex to work with your team to foster more engagement, book a Positive Leadership Consultation to discuss the consulting and training options that I can customize for your organization.
Plus, keep your questions coming! Email your positive leadership questions to me at [email protected] and I’ll answer them in future posts.