I subscribe to many leadership and management article writers. It is interesting that the articles seem to follow trends and the current trend is employee engagement. There has been a great deal of study regarding employee engagement and it’s effect on corporate success.
About 10 years ago, Chicago-based researcher ISR conducted a study among more than 664,000 employees in 71 companies worldwide. They found that there was a difference of almost 52 percent in one-year performance improvement in operating income between companies with low employee engagement and companies with high employee engagement. The high-engagement organizations improved by 19.2 percent, while the low-engagement organizations declined by 32.7 percent over the period of the study.
Gallup Management Journal’s Employee engagement index reported that in the USA, 17 percent of employees are positively disengaged, 54 percent are not engaged and 29 percent are engaged. They estimate that the cost of disengaged employees was between $250 and $350 billion per year.
All this indicates that organizations with highemployee engagement are dramatically more successful than those with high employee disengagement. Employee engagement is essential for success. This brings many questions to mind.
First, what exactly is employee engagement? Most articles that I have been receiving do not answer this question. They concentrate mostly on what the organization should do and what the employees should do. These are “what” issues not “why” issues. Why are the employees not engaged is a very important question. It moves toward motivation, which in my belief, is a personal and internal function, not an external factor. I believe that although you can demotivate someone, you cannot motivate him. You can remove the demotivating factors, however the individual’s motivation has to come from within. Essentially you can create an environment for the employee to then find motivation and become engaged. But what is engagement?
Let’s define disengagement first because it is an easier task to accomplish. You are at least partially disengaged if you have these feelings and opinions:
You are not particularly happy with your job and employer.
You feel as though you are not treated as a valuable member of the team.
You care little about your employer’s success.
You regularly check for availability of other jobs.
You believe your employer has communications problems.
You withhold information or effort that would prove beneficial to the organization.
Now let’s look at engagement. My very simple definition of engagement is that you are engaged when you are willing to expend personal resources for the greater good of the organization. Resources could be spending extra time, extra mental effort, extra physical effort, extra personal funds, etc. If you get up in the morning and look forward to going to work, not for the social aspect, but for the satisfaction you get from doing your job, you are engaged. Engagement is satisfaction.
If you go to work just to get the paycheck and don’t really care either way about your job, you just do the job that is asked to the minimum requirement, you are neither engaged nor disengaged. You are part of the 54 percent that does little actual harm and little actual contribution to growth. Essentially you are just “punching the clock” and waiting for the bell indicating you can go home now.
So, what can an employer do? First, remove the obstacles to engagement and motivation, even if that means removing the boss who is in the way. The team’s leader is the single most important factor in engagement.
If the team perceives the boss as uncaring, incompetent, a poor communicator, unappreciative, etc., the employees will find it very difficult to get motivated and engaged. Providing free coffee, popcorn, billiard tables and other such items do not in themselves provide motivation. They may provide a false sense of employee engagement to leadership while the employees are actually unhappy and dissatisfied.
Second, the employer should take steps to provide as much autonomy in how individuals perform their jobs. People want to feel that they influence how they perform and how they achieve the desired outcomes. People also naturally strive for mastery in what they do. They want to be good at what they do and to improve toward excellence. People also want to know that they serve a purpose in what they do. They want to know how they fit into the higher scheme of things in the organization.
How do we provide autonomy, mastery and purpose? We have to do a very good job of communicating the organizational values and mission and how the employees contribute to these. We ensure that employees know expectations and rewards and that they are valued and appreciated. I have said it often and I will say it again: Make sure to take the time to conduct effective One-On-Ones with employees.
What can an employee do to self-motivate and engage? First, realize that your employment is a two-way street. You can and should influence what you do, how you do it and why you do it. Ensure to communicate often in all directions. Look for ways to contribute more than expected. Take an extra step toward excellence in all you do. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Form the habit of motivating yourself and you will have the habit of being engaged.
The final question is: What to do if the situation “prevents” you from self-motivating? We all have heard that if things cannot be accepted they must be changed, if things cannot be changed they must be accepted. This appears to be a paradox, whatever paradox really means your options are clear.
Accept that you can do nothing by becoming part of the 54 percent who just collect a paycheck.
Change by becoming part of the 17 percent and become a disruptive pain to your boss.
Change by becoming part of the 29 percent by finding ways to self-motivate and engage.
Change by becoming part of whatever percentage is out looking for a job (which may be the result of becoming part of the 17 percent).
So, you employers, find ways to provide an environment conducive to self-motivation and engagement. You employees, find ways to be in an environment that is conducive to self-motivation and engagement. I so often hear from people about how the company is doing this and doing that to save money. I also hear from employers about how employees don’t seem to have the drive and motivation that they themselves had. I wonder, if leadership spent time communicating and establishing real relationships with the employees, would they together find ways to mutually invest in employee and employer engagement. Nah, that would take time and effort, and would require all to be engaged in the first place.
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