A Closer Look @ Employee Engagement

July 31, 2013
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Article by:  Gregory Ferris, Ed D

Some frightening possibilities! American businesses are operating at 1/3 of their capacity. What if banks only opened 1/3 of their branches each day?. What if manufacturing companies operated only 1/3 of their machines at capacity each day? And what if customer service call centers took only 1/3 of all calls received daily? What opportunities are these businesses losing and what might be the potential impact to their future growth? Very frightening possibilities.

 

It doesn’t stop here. Recent findings taken from Gallup and Harris polls of 11,000 employees, from cross functional businesses, indicated that:

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  1. Only 15% of the employees could identify the company’s most important goals.
  2. 51% were unsure of how they were expected to help the business achieve goals.
  3. Only 49% of all available work time is dedicated to company’s most important goals.
  4. 53% of American employees are unhappy with their jobs

And finally, findings from the polls indicated that in the American workforce:

  1. 29% of employees are fully engaged in their work.
  2. 55% of employees are disengaged from their work.
  3. 16% are actively disengaged from work.

A closer look shows that only 29% of the employees are engaged in the workplace. They believe in the company and want to make things better. They clearly understand the business and how their work fits into the “big picture.” These employees are respectful of, and helpful to team members and others.  They find opportunities to stay current in their field of expertise and are willing to go the extra mile. On the other hand, disengaged employees are not risk takers nor committed to the company. They lack a sense of achievement in their work and focus only on “just doing the job.” Advancement in their role is not important.  They are just doing enough to keep their job. Actively disengaged employees are unhappy at work and act out the unhappiness. They like to be part of the problem and find it almost impossible to become part of the solution. Unfortunately they spread discontent and consistently fall short of meeting performance expectations.

With 71% of employees disengaged, there is significant loss in effectiveness and productivity. As an example, if you have 100 employees with an average salary including benefits of $35,000, with 71% not delivering a full hour worth of work for a full hour of pay, you are losing. $3,300.00 X 71% = $2,485,000 an annual loss of productivity just in wages alone not to mention how their behaviors have affected internal and external customers.

Engagement happens when employees think (head) feel (heart) and act (hands) in positive ways toward their job, their work, and their companies. Successful companies see the value of engaging the workforce and spend significant time “riveting” the head, heart and hands of employees to positive workplace experiences. The benefits of building an engaged workforce are numerous:

  • Employees are more effective in their work and seek greater responsibilities.
  • Engaged employees are willing to change in all circumstances with less resistance when change happens. They embrace the change and offer willingness to unfreeze, change and refreeze into new work patterns and behavioral expectations.
  • Creativity and innovation becomes the spirit of the workplace. Problems are followed with solutions. Ownership emerges in actions where value becomes far greater than what is expected in compensation.
  • Engaged behavior is most likely to influence peers in a positive way. The excitement and enthusiasm generated spreads quickly and has a modeling effect.
  • The can do attitude is invasive and pushes forward in a wave of change.
  • Interesting enough, engaged employees become more satisfied with their work and less stressed. Absenteeism is reduced and turnover becomes less threatening as workers see value in engagement.

The bottom line is the productive consequence of employee engagement. Companies report that productivity gains momentum as engagement behaviors become slowly embedded in the workplace. Companies have reported productivity gains of 10-15% in the first year.

As in any business startup, there is an initial investment of time to create the culture of engagement. However, in the long haul, there is a return far greater than the investment.

Engagement is truly a workplace where employees know more, do more and willingly contribute more to the success of the company. Stepping up to engagement is more than motions. It requires awareness, understanding and skill development of essential engagement tools. It also requires leadership commitment and patience as the engagement culture slowly emerges into the workplace. It is a time when the weak-hearted step aside. It is a time when the company must move beyond motions and begin to provide clear communication, resources and invite the spontaneity of grassroots leadership. Indeed, capturing the head, heart and hands of all employees through planned actions and executed for measurable results should be the goal of every business.

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