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If you’re a business owner or a senior leader in any organization, you probably dream of having satisfied customers and loyal and engaged employees. The problem with that dream is that it rarely ever comes true. Getting depressed and sleeping more doesn’t improve your chances.
Studies have found that increasing the proportion of engaged employees in any business leads to improved customer service, higher quality products, higher retention of valued employees, better stock prices, etc. In fact, in any measure of business success, higher employee engagement leads to better results.
The problem is that in an average organization, no better than a third of employees are fully engaged. About half are not engaged to any degree, and almost one in four are actively disengaged. So what’s a leader to do? (See, for example, Gallup Survey, 2012.)
The first thing to do is define what you’re talking about when you refer to “employee engagement.” There are myriad definitions and each has subtle differences that could affect how one might approach the issue.
One definition that most people can live with was offered by Kevin Kruse in Forbes Online (June 22, 2012). Paraphrased, Kruse defines employee engagement as the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work. That last part about discretionary effort is crucial, in my estimation. Remember what happened a while back when a bunch of airline pilots decided to follow the rules exactly, and do nothing else? It brought flight schedules to a screeching halt for a couple of days.
Faithful readers may recall that I’ve suggested more than once that personal communication, good listening skills, and both formal and informal recognition can improve engagement. While that’s true in most cases, you can’t be everywhere, and you’ll have to rely on your managers to do what’s necessary. How can you be sure that managers are doing it? Someone wiser than I (variously attributed to Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Edwards Deming, Lord Kelvin, and others) once said that what gets measured gets done, so why not make engagement-producing behaviors part of the performance goals of managers?
If you hold managers/supervisors responsible for things like recognition, good communication, training, etc., you’ll get more of it, and that will translate into improved engagement among employees. That, in turn, will translate into better employee attitudes, improved customer service and retention, improved employee retention, growth in revenue and margins, etc.
Any questions? Call the Answer Man (me) at 314-539-5329.