BY MICHAEL BECK | OB BLOGGER
A recent Gallup study reported that organizations with above average employee engagement experienced 147% higher earnings per share compared with their competition in 2011-2012. Gallup also estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year.
It's no surprise that a highly engaged workforce produces significantly better results. Highly engaged people are happier, more positive, more creative and more productive. And it should also come as no surprise that the latest research on brain neuroscience and positive psychology confirms that people who are happier are more engaged.
Many organizations recognize the importance of improved engagement, but the result of their efforts to improve engagement are generally poor because they are misguided. This is also confirmed by the same Gallup study, which reports that, despite efforts to improve engagement, 70% of American workers are either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged". The truth is that the key to high employee engagement is to avoid disengagement.
Although companies like Google succeed in keeping their workforce engaged by offering perks such as gourmet meals and workout facilities, those by themselves won't make much of a difference. (Most companies can't afford to provide those perks anyway.)
The results from employee engagement efforts are generally poor because most programs are attempts to do something to or for employees as a means of boosting engagement. It's analogous to a doctor treating someone's symptoms rather than addressing the underlying problem. The pain goes away for a while, but the problem doesn't go away.
If we were to assess the level of engagement of new employees (as opposed to all employees), we would find it to be extraordinarily high. And therein lies the answer to having an engaged workforce — the key to high employee engagement is to prevent employees from becoming disengaged, thereby keeping them at that initial high level of engagement.
People generally become disengaged in response to how they're treated by those who have some control or authority over them – their leaders, managers, and supervisors. And while it may be true that a leader with passion, vision and purpose can leverage the enthusiasm and involvement of employees who are already engaged, simply having vision and passion will do little to spark a disengaged workforce. The foundation must be laid first.
• Hire the Right People - Creating and maintaining an engaged workforce begins with having the right people on board to begin with.
• Avoid Disengagement - Employee disengagement occurs when a person's needs are not met – security, social, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment.
• Leverage Existing Engagement - Employee engagement is enhanced when the organization and its leaders earn the respect and trust of the workforce.
• Oversee Follow-Through - Professing one thing but doing another demonstrates a lack of integrity, so the organization and its leaders must stay true to the values and behaviors agreed upon.
If you want to have a highly engaged workforce you must develop a strong culture, hire people who are aligned with that culture, eliminate behaviors that cause people to disengage, and hone the skills of your leaders. If you cause all that to happen and ensure good follow through, you will have a loyal, creative, productive and highly engaged workforce. Oh, and let's not forget happier people and a whole lot more profit!