An employee on the receiving end of a merger was overheard telling a customer, “These new people have no idea what they’re doing. If I were you, I’d take all my accounts out of here as soon as possible!”
While much effort had been put into processes, procedures and technical training, not enough attention was paid to communicating with the new employees. They didn’t understand the thinking behind decisions that affected them and their customers yet were on the front lines trying to explain mistakes and answer unanswerable questions. They didn’t even know if they had jobs in the new organization. The resulting frustration led to highly disengaged employees, to the point where they were actively recommending that their customers switch to the competition. If one person hadn’t overheard one employee, the company might not have known what was going on.
According to a Gallup poll, actively disengaged employees cause U.S. companies between $450 – $550 billion in lost productivity per year. At their worst, highly disengaged employees can actually sabotage their companies. Gallup’s recently released State Of the American Workplace report for 2017 indicates that only 33% are engaged.
What is employee engagement? It’s the emotional, mental and physical commitment an employee has to an organization and its goals. There are three types of engagement:
Actively Engaged– personal connection to goals, go above and beyond, share and anticipate, encourage other employees. They work with passion and enthusiasm.
Disengaged– job is a paycheck. Do no more than required, stay “in the box”. Representing as much as 50% of the workforce, they just put in their time.
Actively Disengaged– really dislike their jobs. Actively demonstrate their discontent. Spreading contagious unhappiness, they stay and damage.
Highly engaged people describe themselves as fulfilled, excited, happier, healthier, valued and motivated. An organization with engaged employees experiences the positive results:
- Higher productivity and efficiency
- Strong performance levels
- Collaborative, solid working relationships
- Greater commitment and loyalty
- Willingness to go the extra mile
- More satisfied customers and increased retention
- Ability to attract and retain high quality talent
- On the flip side, disengaged employees lead to:
- Decreased productivity
- More customer complaints and lost customers
- Workplace conflicts
- Negative organizational culture
- Increased workplace errors
- Twice as many safety incidents
- High absenteeism, estimated to be as high as 69% among highly disengaged employees
- Increased turnover costs, approximately 6-9 months’ salary for a mid-level employee and as high as 213% for a top executive.
Disengaged employees cost businesses money, time and talent.
Employment Engagement is an approach that aligns individual and corporate goals. Businesses that develop a comprehensive employee engagement strategy attract and retain high performance employees and achieve increased productivity. People who work in these environments report increased overall job satisfaction.
Some things to incorporate into your employee engagement strategy include:
Goal alignment, with meaningful goals
People want to make a difference. Millennials in particular seek meaningful work. How does their work contribute to the company’s goals? How do the company’s goals contribute to the community at large?
Sense of direction
Keep people informed. Make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.
Discuss career opportunities and help employees visualize a career path. Offer internal and external training and education and encourage employees to take advantage of them. A hot new perk is performance coaching, where high-potential employees are provided with individual coaching. (Full disclosure: I am a performance development coach.)
Give people the chance to take on an assignment that takes them beyond their current job responsibilities and allows them to interact with and be viewed by a wider range of colleagues.
One on ones
Don’t wait for the annual performance review. Initiate informal conversations that lead to better understanding of your employees and their personal goals.
Most people will point to one or more key mentors that helped them along the way. Most mentors come about informally, but you can develop a mentoring program within your company. Just be sure to find mentors with the right skills.
Flexible hours and working remotely are on the top of many millennials’ list of most desired working conditions. A talented millennial with an excellent job and high salary said he’d take less money and benefits for a similar job if he had the option to work remotely.
Highly engaged employees trust their team, from the CEO on down. Foster a culture that values truth.
One cannot not communicate. When there is a communication void, people fill in their own details. Nothing is more powerful, or travels faster, than a company grapevine. Keep the lines of communication open and be sure it works both ways.
Healthy work environment
A healthy work environment includes mental and physical health. Some ideas include plants, standing desks, work life balance, places to work quietly, access to healthy snack options, encouraging physical activity, offering health screenings. Encourage your employees to offer suggestions (and listen to them!).
Consider reviewing your current benefits package. There may be some adjustments you can make to make your business more competitive. Free or subsidized gym memberships, more time off, and course tuition reimbursement are all highly desirable benefits. According to the American Student Assistance survey, 76% revealed that student debt assistance would be a deciding factor to accepting a job.
You may not be ready to pay off tuition or put in a napping room, but there are certainly benefits you can offer to make your business stand out.
Celebrate successes small and large
It’s great to celebrate the completion of a major project, but it helps to keep the motivation and momentum flowing if you also celebrate accomplishments along the way. Everyone appreciates a “well done”, yet experience indicates that supervisors correct twice as often as they praise.
How do you know if your employees are engaged? There are plenty of surveys to help you find out, but the best way is to observe and listen. In other words, start by being your most engaged employee.