A lot has been written lately about “employee engagement” . . . some of it right here. The Gallup organization, which has studied it for many years, says employee engagement can be measured by the strength of the emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her company. If the employee sings the company song, bleeds the company colors, and is fully committed to the company’s mission and goals, he or she is “engaged.” If an employee is just punching a clock and collecting a paycheck, he or she is “not engaged.” Gallup says 70% or more of employees nationwide fall into this “not engaged” category. However, Gallup also says a company that increases its level of employee engagement will also increase its profitability and productivity, and will decrease its employee turnover. But is capturing the hearts of your employees enough? According to a friend and colleague, Nick Bizony, it’s not. To learn what Nick believes is the real payoff, please continue reading below.
“The best ideas for improving a job come from those who do it every day.”
~ Jim Bleech, business consultant, speaker
Nick spent many years working with Fortune 500 companies, helping them to forge more collaborative relationships between management and workers. He pushed for higher levels of what he terms “employee involvement.” If employee engagement is about winning the hearts of employees, then employee involvement is about getting their heads in the game as well. After all, today’s workforce is smarter, better educated, and better informed than any workforce in history. So why waste all that brain power? Your employees have ideas about how their work could be done better/faster/cheaper, but if you don’t ask, and if they’re not engaged, they’re not going to share them.
There are several areas where employee involvement is particularly appropriate
- Decision-making. When you need to decide something, do you huddle only with your managers, or do you involve everyone whose job might be impacted? Perhaps you can’t include everyone in every decision, but in many decisions, you can. And understandably, people want to have a say in decisions that will influence the way they work.
- Problem-solving. As managers, that’s what we do. We solve problems. If there are no problems, there’s not much for us to do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t tap into the experience, skill, and knowledge of our employees to help us solve problems. With more heads working on the problem, we probably get a better solution than the one we may have come up with all by ourselves. Plus, asking employees for their help sends a powerful message that you respect and value their ideas and opinions. This can be a great morale booster
- Continuous improvement. As the quote above says, if you want to improve something, ask the people who are involved with it every day. This isn’t decision-making or problem-solving. This is saying, “We’re really good at what we do, but how can we do it even better?” As you would expect, people get a real positive buzz when they see an idea of theirs put into practice.
Nick and I have had endless chicken-or-egg discussions about whether engagement leads to involvement or involvement opens the door to engagement. But we do agree that there’s a symbiotic relationship between engagement and involvement. An engaged employee will be more open to deeper levels of involvement in the company, but it’s also true that deeper levels of involvement will lead to even higher levels of an employee’s engagement. Ying and Yang. Each feeds the other.
If you’re that rare employer who has carefully crafted both employee engagement and employee involvement into your company’s culture, good for you! Just keep it up. But if you’re not that rare employer . . . and let’s be honest, you’re probably not . . . then you’re squandering a valuable resource. As a retiring General Motors employee once lamented, “For 25 years you’ve paid only for my hands when you could have had my brain for free.”
If you’re interested in learning how you might start down that path to employee engagement and employee involvement, please contact me. I will be happy to discuss it with you. And I’ll even bring Nick.