You or someone you know goes to work, they get through the day and pick up their check, but they fail to feel connected to their work and to the organization in which they work. Sound familiar? The business diagnosis for this malady is low employee engagement.
In fact, only 31% of employees are engaged in what they do at work, according to a global study in the 2011 Employee Engagement Report.
Of 10,914 workers surveyed worldwide, India had the most engaged employees (37%) while China had the smallest number (17%); 33% of the North American employees surveyed were engaged in the workplace. The numbers vary a bit, depending on the study, but most numbers support the fact that low employee engagement is prevalent in the workplace.
The Gallup Management Journal’s semi-annual Employee Engagement Index describes low employee engagement as either ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’. Employees who are not engaged on the job put in the time but sleepwalk through their day; actively disengaged employees act out their unhappiness and undermine the effectiveness of their colleagues. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for employee of the year.
Adding insult to injury, Dale Carnegie estimates that companies collectively lose $350 billion a year due to low employee engagement. Disengaged employees impact business productivity, levels of innovation, employee morale, and ultimately, the bottom line.
So, what is employee engagement? An employee’s involvement with, commitment to, and satisfaction with their work. The Conference Board, a non-profit business membership organization, blended several research studies to describe employee engagement as “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for their organization, that influences them to exert greater discretionary effort to their work.”
In his book, Intrinsic Motivation at Work: What Really Drives Employee Engagement, emeritus professor and researcher Kenneth Thomas describes rewards we get from work. Extrinsic rewards, so named because other people control their size and if they are granted, include financial rewards such as salary, raises, bonuses, and benefits. Intrinsic rewards come from within each of us as the psychological reward we get from doing a good job.
“Today’s employees add value—innovating, problem solving, and improvising to meet customers’ needs,” states Thomas, noting that engaged employees in this information age show initiative, choose to do things right, display competencies on the job and are committed to making a meaningful contribution to the organization.
Engaged employees are enthusiastic, caring and committed. Engaged employees feel safe and secure to test new ideas. They feel respected and valued for their contributions. Engaged employees move the organization forward, believing they have a positive impact on the products and services of the organization.
Engaged employees feel a strong emotional bond to the organization for which they work. They recommend the organization to others, without reservation, as they work tirelessly to ensure its success. It is not surprising, then, to find that many organizations with highly engaged employees have high customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Engaged employees plan to stay for what they give while disengaged employees stay for what they get.
Business outcomes — including retention, productivity, profitability, customer engagement and safety — can usually be linked to highly (dis)engaged employees.
At MolsonCoors, disengaged employees were five times more likely than engaged employees to have a safety incident and seven times more likely to have a lost-time safety incident. By strengthening employee engagement, the company saved $1,721,760 annually in safety costs.
So what’s the key to creating a culture of highly engaged employees?
“You have to make the time to converse with people; listening is more important than talking,” says noted business advisor and CEO coach Ram Charan. “You help people see how their project, their job, and their goals fit into a higher purpose. This helps people realize that their contribution matters.”
Charan emphasizes the importance of honest feedback to employees on a regular basis to acknowledge high performers as well as to provide growth opportunities for others. Taking time to learn about the person behind the job is also important to facilitate employee growth throughout a successful career.
And, be sure to do something with the feedback data gathered from employees and other stakeholders in the workplace. Do not ask for feedback and then let it sit in a report on a shelf. Taking action on gathered feedback fosters trust, credibility, and team building in an organization intent on developing highly engaged employees.
If you would like to learn more about how NBRI can help you measure employee engagement in your organization and use that information to further develop your employees, contact us now at 1-800-756-6168.
Terrie Nolinske, Ph.D.
National Business Research Institute