Can you imagine your employees looking forward to coming to work? Can you imagine them working for a higher purpose than just collecting a paycheck? Can you imagine them committed not only to discharging their own duties and responsibilities, but also to helping the company achieve its long-term goals? Can you imagine your employees so engrossed by what they’re doing that they lose track of time? Well, that’s the promise of Employee Engagement. And the prize for building an “engaged” workforce? Discretionary effort . . . meaning employees will willingly devote their maximum effort to their work because they want to, not because they have to. Contrast that with ordinary effort whereby employees put forth only enough effort to keep their jobs (and their paychecks). By tapping into discretionary effort, you get higher productivity, superior customer service, and as a result, higher profitability. That’s why the business world has finally realized that Employee Engagement is good for the bottom line. Do you think you’ve got the “right stuff” to build an engaged workforce? To find out, please continue reading below.
Are we almost there yet?
“There is no ‘there’: Employee Engagement is a journey, not a destination.”
~ Bob Kelleher, author of “Employee Engagement for Dummies”
SilkRoad, a human capital technology firm, did a 2013 study in which they determined that less than 40 percent of companies do anything at all with Employee Engagement, despite the fact that an engaged workforce provides the company a significant competitive advantage. Why? Because Employee Engagement is not for the faint of heart. Building an engaged workforce ain’t easy. It takes time, it takes effort, and above all, it takes commitment. As Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” So it is with Employee Engagement
Interestingly, of the (less than) 40 percent of companies that do give Employee Engagement a nod of some sort, many of them treat it as a “program.” Employee Engagement is not a “program.” It’s not something that needs to be funded on an annual basis, nor is it something that gets a scant few minutes at the bottom of a weekly staff meeting agenda. It’s a way of doing business. It’s something that gets absorbed into the fabric of the company and its culture. It defines how things are done and how things are communicated throughout the organization.
Another mistake people make regarding Employee Engagement is the belief that it is the same thing as “employee satisfaction.” It’s not . . . not even close. Employee satisfaction is about the quality of your group health insurance coverage, how big a contribution the company makes to the 401(k) program, and whether or not you have a ping pong table in the break room. Not that there’s anything wrong with those sorts of perks, but they don’t drive performance and productivity. Employee Engagement does.
Employee Engagement is driven by the company’s culture. Therefore, before employees can or will become fully engaged, certain characteristics of the company’s culture must be in place. Those include:
- Challenging work
- Continuous learning and improvement
- Job autonomy (working without close supervision)
- Supportive managers and/or supervisors
- A climate of respect and trust
- Work/life balance
- Economic security (trust that the company’s financial health is being well-managed)
So, as you can see, there is a lot of foundational work to be done to a company’s culture before Employee Engagement will take root, not the least of which is the company’s hiring practices. For instance, are we screening for people who can work independently without a lot of close supervision? When we are hiring managers and supervisors, are we attempting to screen out those who might have micro-management tendencies?
As we have said, building an “engaged” workforce is not something you can do overnight. It takes time and it takes effort . . . which is what makes Employee Engagement a significant competitive advantage. If it were fast and easy, everyone would do it and there would be no competitive advantage for anyone. So are you going to ignore the trend toward Employee Engagement and allow one of your competitors to beat you to the punch? Or will you seize this opportunity to capture the high ground while your competitors are napping? The choice is yours.
If you like the sound of Employee Engagement but don’t know where to begin, contact us. We can help.