Our current recession is good for one thing. Many companies are focusing on “employee engagement,” an approach to more consciously value and act on connecting with passionate employees who truly care about the company.
With businesses failing at a record rate, who doesn’t want to convince nervous workers to remain calm and hang on through the tough times? Research finds, however, that employees seek more engagement with company leaders regardless of the economic situation. Consider some facts from a recent Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study:
- Four out of 10 workers are disenchanted or disengaged today. One-third of employees are looking for greener pastures even in this economy where jobs are scarce.
- Only about 20 percent feel they have full discretion on how to handle their job. In other words, employee empowerment is still a distant dream for most.
- Overall perception of leadership effectiveness is down significantly, yet a strong display of leadership is one of the most critical pieces of keeping a company viable.
Employee Engagement Is No Longer A Nice To Have
Companies like Zappos, an online mega shoe store, have learned how to make employee engagement a competitive differentiator. In 10 short years, Zappos has bootstrapped itself up to $1 billion in sales by creating service-obsessed employees.
The Zappos’ staff actually make less-than-market rate salaries and receive fewer perks compared to many high-flying midsize companies. But Zappos’ employees get something bigger in return. They get access and complete engagement in the business at all levels. CEO Tony Hsieh’s cubicle is in the sea of other work spaces where he’s available to listen to ideas and/or explain where the business is heading. The entire team is in shouting distance of invites to frequent impromptu after-work drinks or dinner.
Zappos and other employee-obsessed companies will drive competition for the best people in the future, and drive productivity and focus today.
Engagement: Creating It and Keeping It
When I work with companies to define an engaging work environment, employees universally tell me they’re looking for five simple (and mostly free) things:
- A challenge. The vast majority of people want to make a difference; knowing they can personally impact the business, even in a relatively small way, is extremely intoxicating.
- A little appreciation. Receiving praise for a job well done every week or so is among Gallup’s famous 12 Elements of Great Managing. The power of a simple “thank you” can’t be under estimated.
- Accountability. Most people want to be in charge of something, large or small, for which they have real responsibility to make decisions.
- Being included. Most people desire to be involved in something greater than themselves; in business, employees want to know how their role fits into the big picture.
- The right work and fair outcomes. Leaders and managers have to pause long enough to define excellence up front so that they stage others for success versus catching them doing it wrong a week from now. This alignment also is the base from which a leader can get employees engaged so they voluntarily want to stretch outside their comfort zones to make an even bigger impact over time.
- The key to extraordinary performance comes down to understanding each employee on six important levels: their spirit, identity, values and beliefs, capabilities, behaviors and effective working environment. The Six Levels of Engagement will be the focus of a future blog entry.
Engaged employees contribute significantly to an organization’s focus. Focus creates energy. Energy creates more engagement. Employee engagement contributes to a perpetually fueled winning culture that is impacted less significantly by the economic conditions outside.
Where to begin? Leaders, of course, get the ball rolling to create a culture of engaged employees. So, first things first… here are two other blog entries to help get started: