A recently-released Gallup report revealed just 30 percent of the American workforce is fully engaged at work, but what does “engaged” really mean?
For the purposes of the study, engaged employees were characterized as “deeply committed to the success of their organization and emotionally connected to its mission and goals [and] routinely willing to put forth discretionary effort,” explained Fast Company. Disengaged workers – who made up 52 percent of the nearly 150,000 survey participants – were “less emotionally connected to their work and less compelled to put forth extra effort; they show up for work but generally do only the minimum required,” while the 18 percent who fell into the “actively disengaged” category were “actively against what the organization, and their boss, is trying to get done.”
A concerning trend
Ideally, every member of the workforce would fall into the “engaged” bucket, but this situation is unrealistic for myriad reasons, many of which have nothing to do with what an organization’s leadership is or isn’t doing. However, when more than two-thirds of workers are disengaged, this suggests an underlying systemic leadership issue.
“Workplaces in general have paid a lot of attention to process and much less to people,” Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and well-being, told Fast Company. “Most people come to work well intentioned and only turn sour when their basic needs aren’t being met.”
To boost success, look to engagement
The effects of a disengaged workforce affect much more than just employee morale. According to Gregg Lederman, author of “ENGAGED!: Outbehave Your Competition to Create Customers for Life,” highly engaged firms are able to decrease turnover rates by as much as 87 percent, drive a 20 percent rise in performance and bolster customer satisfaction by 12 percent or more, Forbes reported.
Forbes contributor Martin Zwilling provided an overview of the eight principles of engagement laid out in Lederman’s book:
1.) Keep employees “onstage” and outperforming the competition when it comes to delivering positive, branded experiences to customers
2.) Keep teams happy – without merely falling back on monetary incentives – so they can pass their enthusiasm along to consumers.
3.) Make culture visible by encouraging and rewarding employee behavior that aligns with the company’s values, mission statement, branding, etc.
4.) Cultivate culture through action, not words, by deploying effective training and frequently reminding workers of key principles.
5.) Eschew employee satisfaction surveys in favor of company-wide assessments to gauge whether workers are truly “living the brand.”
6.) Ensure leaders come down from the ivory tower to talk to customers firsthand.
7.) Shift from a reward-focused culture to one that prioritizes training and recognition.
8.) Instill “a culture of responsibility and accountability” to build leadership trust and offer a positive example to workers.
For a company eager to bolster employee engagement and reap the accompanying benefits, strong leadership is key. Sometimes, good candidates within the organization are eager to step up to the plate, but working with an executive recruiting firm is a viable option to help find the right leader for the business in instances when internal prospects are lacking. Once a new executive has completed 90 days in the new role, the process of generating gains in engagement can begin. Depending on corporate culture and the demographics of the workforce, this process could take the form of anything from scheduling one-on-one chats between the CEO and every employee (as in the case of user experience research firm AnswerLab) to awarding top performers with custom-made action figures that resemble them (the brainchild of decision-making software provider Decision Lens), according to 9 Inch Marketing. Making employees feel valued and included often results in increased productivity, lower turnover and a host of other benefits.
About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 40 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America and in London, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.