Workforce engagement is a recurring theme among many of our clients, and we've consistently found it to be a critical component of continuous improvement, customer satisfaction and long-term success. Further, we've observed that organizations lacking an engaged workforce are rarely able to implement sustainable improvement systems and, more importantly, are often doomed to sub-optimal levels of achievement.
For example, a number of studies over the past decade have shown that companies with high-levels of employee engagement earn returns that are more than double those of the overall market. Other data suggests that providing employees with ongoing opportunities for personal and professional development increases their productivity, job satisfaction and average tenure. As noted in a 2011 Blessing-White report, “engaged employees stay for what they give; the disengaged stay for what they get.”
Unfortunately, Gallup polls over the past several years indicate that over 70% of the US workforce is disengaged! This is a disturbing fact, as the costs of disengagement can be staggering – over $ 300 billion per year according to some experts.
The good news is that building a culture of employee engagement is not all that complicated. Not that it is easy. But while the steps take time and effort, they are both simple and clear, and they can work anywhere the leadership is sincerely committed to them. The result can be an unleashing of the intrinsic interest most human beings have in creating value for the people and organizations that they care about.
Here are three key steps involved in building a culture of work engagement.
Driving out fear is a good place to start. If people are in constant fear of losing their jobs or are afraid to speak out honestly, they will most likely be able to perform at their best or unwilling to go the extra mile. But job security does not mean retaining people who do not fit the culture or performance needs of the organization. High engagement employers let people go when they prove to be unwilling or unable to work in a way that is consistent with the company values.
Two way communication protocols in which people are asked to share their ideas is also a key ingredient to an engaged workplace. Sharing information creates a climate of trust and cooperation. But an organization simply can not leverage the talents and ideas of even the most engaged employees if the employees do not also have the facts and data about performance and the skills and training required to interpret and act on that information.
Motivation beyond a paycheck or organizing around a worthy purpose can be profitable as well as motivating. In their book Firms of Endearment, Sisidia, Sheth, and Wolfe present a compelling case that companies do best when they attend the needs of all of their stalkholders, including communities, employees, customers, as well as shareholders.
However, it is also important to note that, while employee engagement is a critical foundation, it is not sufficient as a stand-alone tool. An organization must also create a continuous learning environment so that team members learn both from one another as well as from external training sources. Learning, as well as motivation and engagement, is critical to helping people improve their ability to better serve their customers, to more effectively study and improve work processes, and to more successfully collaborate in becoming a high performing organization.