Research shows businesses with high levels of employee engagement experience more positive strategic outcomes than those where employees are not engaged. The term “employee engagement” is really a measure of how much interest and respect employees have for their job, how proactive they are and how well they gel with the team. Studies on employee engagement consistently show the following:
High employee engagement improves:
- Individual job performance
- Team effectiveness
- Customer satisfaction ratings
Low employee engagement increases:
- Employee turnover
- Employee stress
Low employee engagement costs money. The good news is it doesn’t have to cost a lot to improve employee engagement. Sometimes all it takes is an attitude shift at the higher levels and a willingness to respond to constructive feedback to help create the feed a happier place to work. The chiefs not only need to listen. They need to act.
Signs of the Disengaged Employee
- They do “just enough” and sometimes “not enough” if you allow it. They lack incentive and motivation.
Solution: Provide incentive.
- They are bored. They operate on autopilot mode.
Solution: Challenge them with new responsibilities.
- They are entitled. Few people knowingly hire an entitled person; often they become this way on the job because of positive customer feedback, or working closely with the boss.
Solution: Change the dynamic. Get him out of his comfort zone.
- They lost enthusiasm. When hired, she may have been a positive, dynamic force. Now she’s out of steam.
Solution: Ask her directly what changed? How can she regain her enthusiasm?
Lessons from Small Business Owners
Recently a business owner called Venture Up and said, “How do I get my lazy employees to stop complaining and do their job?” We get calls like that all the time. The first thing that comes to mind is an attitude shift from the top. It’s tough to tell the boss to take a look in the mirror, but that’s exactly what we do, albeit in a far more delicate way. It’s okay to make a mistake; it’s noble to admit it. And if an authoritative boss wants to make a change, he either needs to keep the staff he has and meet them halfway, or hire a new team and start fresh, the latter of which is a drastic and unnecessary step.
Usually, when the business owner realizes he also needs to stop complaining and do his job, he’s ready to pivot and set his company on a new course. Venture Up provides not just fun problem-solving events, but a plan for the company to incorporate in their culture that answers one question: How can we make your workplace more fun? Some strategies include getting involved in community causes, team games, sports events, monthly movie nights, dinners or park events with employees and family members. One way to engage employees is to have them determine the team events to enliven the corporate culture.
When engagement is low at mid-size and larger firms, it’s easier to deflect blame and witness a decline in morale as something beyond management’s control. Small businesses see real results fast. The boss’s paycheck is directly dependent on profits. Changes can be made swiftly and free of red tape vs. the clutter involved in making changes at a larger firm. This is one case where the hotshots of the corporate world can learn from the small business owner. When Jack Welch said, “Change before you have to,” he was talking to everybody ,and the small business owners were among the first to listen.
Managers of every level need to keep an active radar. How many employees do you know who would tell you they’d rather be working elsewhere? That they are not fulfilled at work? That they are stressed every afternoon worried they’ll be stuck in traffic and be late for day care, and charged accordingly? You don’t have to be a mind reader to read the stress on your team members’ faces, notice a pattern of employees quitting, or sense the energy drain out of a room when a certain person enters (hope it’s not you!). Creating a comfortable environment begins at the top.
What You Can Do to Improve Employee Engagement
Employees feel more fulfilled and valued when they are given the opportunity to master new skills and meet new challenges. The company needs to provide the setting and the right tools to help employees unleash their potential.
Managers must be approachable and have a conversation with employees to find out what their preferences and drivers are, and how their work styles best fit into their work teams. Integrating team experiences into the workplace is one way to keep employees fresh and accountable to each other. When employers offer incentives, recognition and reward programs, and promotions they can expect to see an upswing in engagement.
The cost is minimal compared to the payoffs. If companies are able to provide a positive work culture, they can expect to retain staff and grow a reputation as a fun place to work, making it also easier to recruit the best talent.