Editor's note: This post was updated in January, 2019.
We’ve been talking about employee engagement since the 1990s; for decades before that, we talked about employee satisfaction. Whatever the name, we've definitely spent a fair amount of time on the topic. In fact, many companies invest significant effort in measuring and reporting on employee engagement, and building programs and activities to enhance it.
But that's not why you need to invest in it.
You need to invest in employee engagement because your company's success depends on it.
Yes, employee engagement is that big a deal.
Let's look at the proof.
The Research: The Best Make It a Priority
The Trend: Millennials Demand It
If greater profitability isn't enticing enough, how about being able to attract and retain the workers of today and tomorrow?
By now you've certainly read about or even personally experienced the shift in job expectations among younger workers. In fact, 2012 research by Shuck and Herd emphasized that “the age of leader as position is quickly fading” and will be replaced with workplaces that emphasize how the work gets done rather than how much work is accomplished. Millennials seek workplaces that understand their unique needs and offer meaningful work experiences. In short, they expect a culture that is foundational to an engaged workforce.
With Millennials now edging out Baby Boomers as the largest group represented in the American workforce, employers have no choice but to design workplace practices that will attract and engage this important group.
The Reality: Current Engagement is Abysmal
"OK," you say, "I agree that employee engagement is important. But our engagement levels are fine!"
Think again. Especially if you're a senior leader.
In a 2017 blog post, Gallup Chairman + CEO Jim Clifton wrote about Gallup's recent discovery that just 33% of the American workforce are engaged. The majority are not engaged (51%) or are actively disengaged (16%). In addition, Bain and Company reported in 2013 that engagement declines at the lowest levels of the organization, suggesting that senior leaders might be underestimating the discontent on the front lines. Even more concerning, the sales and service team employees who interact with customers every day experience the lowest levels of engagement.
The Remedy: Make These Investments
While employee engagement is a serious business topic that warrants strategic investment, getting started is simple.
Engaging your workforce comes down to a few core practices that must become part of the organization’s culture and leadership personality in order to move the dial toward higher engagement.
Start with Yourself!
You don't have to be a senior leader or begin a major company initiative to improve your team's engagement. You can start with a few simple steps today!
The leaders with the best engagement spend the majority of their time on these four things:
If you're spending most of your time attending meetings, addressing what’s not working, leading projects, and reporting on a variety of metrics, you're likely neglecting the crucial activities of just being with your employees to help them excel.
What's your experience? Have you seen better results when either you or your team are more engaged? What practices were in place? Share your perspective below!
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