“Leaders have to think about their technology, policies, products, and services — but only because these are factors that influence the engagement and success of their employees. The key to an organization’s growth has been and always will be its workforce.” – Gallup, State of American Workplace
Most U.S. employees are checked out. That’s the consensus according to Gallup, which has collected worldwide employee engagement stats for more than a decade. They have found that since 2000, less than 33% of U.S. employees have been engaged.
What’s more jarring is that the percentage of U.S. workers who want to leave their current employer is now at 51%. Compare that to 32% of employees seeking new jobs in 2010 and 23% in 2005. The message? There are a lot of unhappy workers out there.
What can you do? Why should you focus on engaging your workforce?
According to Gallup, “Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity.”
Case in Point
In 2000, Campbell’s Soup had lost 54% of its market value. It was “a very toxic culture,” according to former CEO, Douglas Conant. He faced the daunting task of fixing dysfunctional management systems, battling a lack of trust in the workforce that resulted in victim mentalities, and confronting low productivity.
Now, in 2018, after 10+ years of focusing on employee engagement, the Campbell’s stock price is up 30%. What’s their secret? Leading with civility.
“You can’t expect a company to perform at high levels unless people are personally engaged…,” says Conant.
Harvard Business Review elaborates on defining great leaders who inspire personal engagement through civility as, “treating people like people with recognition, value, and respect.”
What employers may not realize is that employee engagement is about treating your workforce not as a means to an end, but as stakeholders who hold the keys to your company’s future. It’s not about sending another survey out or filling out another performance form. We get stuck going through the motions and it’s easy to forget about the people behind the process.
Know Your Workforce
So, what can you do? Start by identifying your workforce.
There are three types of employees: Engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged.
- “Engaged” employees are passionate and productive, they show enthusiasm for the job and are eager to learn or take on more.
- “Disengaged employees,” on the other hand, are employees that are zoned out, sleepwalking, basically getting the minimal amount of work done to scrape by.
- “Actively disengaged” are employees who are agitated and seek to retaliate by creating a toxic work environment for others.
Tried & True Tips
Next, focus on tried and true engagement tips which boil down to: 1) inspiring purpose, 2) listening to your workforce, and 3) focusing on your leadership.
- Inspire Purpose: Give Meaning to Work
Popular engagement metrics measure employees’ sense of purpose, meaning, and connection to their work and well-being factors that drive engagement. Examples include: “I’m energized by my work,” “My employer values me,” “I’m using my greatest strengths,” and “I contribute to something that matters.”
- Highlight positive end results from your employees’ direct efforts.
- Devise strategies to help them engage with inspiring leadership and positive coworkers.
- Inspire loyalty by finding out what matters to them and how you can support their dreams within or outside the company.
Listen to Your Employees
Engage is the key word here. According to Forbes, leaders who listen foster a culture of loyalty based on trust. Remember your employees are people, not robots. Providing more opportunities for feedback and following up with productive actions can go a long way in showing your employees that you value them.
- Actively seek feedback. Schedule monthly 1:1 meetings to take a bird’s eye view with them. Find out what’s working for them and what’s not.
- Are there projects your employees have asked you to work on? Now is the time to find out what would excite them and strategize how you can give them those opportunities.
- Practice active listening.
The technique I like best is from a Ted Talk on 5 Ways to Listen Better, known as the RASA approach:
R: Receive — listen to the information
A: Appreciate — acknowledge what someone is saying with subtle ques, nodding your head, or making a small sound in agreement
S: Summarize — repeat back what you heard the person say
A: Ask — ask questions about what you heard
- Focus on Your Leaders
According to Inc, 50% of employees leave their employer to get away from their manager. People invest in leadership, not businesses. You not only have to have a great idea, but you also need an inspired team behind you to pull it off.
- Model sustainable work practices like healthy habits to maintain energy and work/life balance. This will inspire trust in your team and give them incentive to follow in your footsteps.
- Be transparent by sharing information about the organization and the strategy.
- Develop Servant Leaders. Keep the idea of focusing on other people as a top priority. Think of your employees as your customers.
Just the other day, a top KPA executive took the time to support me on my efforts to solve a technical problem and helped give me the tools to find the solution. My engagement soared through the roof! Not only did she acknowledge my efforts, but she empowered me to work autonomously, set my own goals, and work to achieve them. I can contribute my creative solutions to the larger vision which will go a long way in motivating me in the long run.
Getting serious about engagement in the workplace can go a long way for employees. I know it did for me.