Over the last few months, I have seen a number of articles question the possibility of employee engagement. One author simply doesn’t believe it is possible for employees working in a low pay, service jobs to be engaged. Another author suggested it was a scam, as employee engagement focused on the employee, not the person. Plus, because employee engagement programs were created with the benefits of the company in mind, employees could not possibly buy in to it.
I believe that many employees want to be engaged and it’s our job to try and make that happen. I believe that employee engagement is possible, although not easy to attain. When employee engagement is an attitude and belief, instead of a program, it can work. When employee engagement focuses on the person, instead of the bottom line, it will work. And when it works, it directly impacts the bottom line.
The 2011 Employee Engagement Report by Blessing White Inc. states that high engagement firms had total shareholder returns that were 19% higher than average in 2009. Low engagement firms had total shareholder returns that were 44% below average.
According to Gallup research, there are three different types of employees: engaged, not-engaged and actively disengaged. Engaged employees derive personal satisfaction from the work they do and they believe their work matters.
So what can you do to engage your employees?
The 2011 Employee Engagement Report identifies the top two satisfaction drivers for employees: “career development opportunities and training” and “more opportunities to do what I do best”. Very often, we try to make a person fit a role, instead of adjusting the role to fit a person. Take a close look at each of your employees. Do you know their strengths and weaknesses? One person’s weakness may be another person’s strength. Are there some duties that could be shuffled? And if not, what kind of support or training are you providing so the employees can improve their weaker areas?
It’s also important that everyone recognizes how their role contributes to the overall success of the team. Engaged employees don’t use the words “I am just the ….”. They know they play an integral role in the team’s ability to successfully reach and maintain a goal. Rankism has no place in a healthy team. Yes, someone will manage and someone will mop the floors, but all roles are important.
Another way to inspire passion is to link your company to a cause. I believe that many people are looking for a cause greater than a paycheque. Fear of reduced hours or job loss if revenue goals aren’t met doesn’t inspire passion. How would your team feel if they knew that one result of their hard work would be support for a homeless shelter or a hospice for the terminally ill or a children’s hospital? The support could be in the form of a cash donation or a sponsorship or even giving employees paid time to participate in a fundraising effort. Brainstorm with your team to come up with some ideas on how to give back.
There are many other factors that impact employee engagement. When executives and managers are disengaged, chances are their employees are as well. Executives and managers who trust their employees, who share company values, goals and objectives and who include their employees in the strategic planning process have a much higher percentage of actively engaged employees.
Taking the time and making the commitment to move your employees from a group of individuals to a strong, performing team takes hard work. It takes commitment, it means overcoming frustrations, conflict and the feeling of just wanting to throw in the towel. It means truly believing that the hard work will benefit not just the company, but each individual on that team, including you.
When you head to work today, recognize each member for their unique contribution to your team, focus on their strengths and inspire passion!