Inspiring Employee Engagement

As much as anything, I believe companies can significantly impact their bottom line through their commitment to social responsibility and how they manage their culture. This enhances the ability to capture the potential of their employees by directing efforts and resources to focus on better employee engagement. An engaged employee is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work thereby taking positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

Many companies view the answer is in throwing money at the problem—to increase wages or incentives with the hope it will inspire employees to go the extra mile, day in and day out. This is not an effective solution and, in fact, may worsen the condition in the long term.

“Real motivation will never flow from financial inducements alone, or for that matter, from the fear of being fired. People who work only for a pay check and not because they like what they do or feel inspired to do it well—these people will only work as hard as they have to in order to get paid.” ~ Dale Carnegie

THE NUMBERS ARE TELLING

The numbers paint a grim picture:

  • Gallup reports that 15 percent of workers worldwide are engaged (33 percent in the United States).
  • Gallup further reports that 51 percent of employees are looking for a new job or watching for openings.
  • Tower Perrin reports that 21 percent of employees are engaged in their work (go the extra mile).
  • Tower Perrin further reports that 38 percent are mostly or entirely disengaged.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around these numbers. Frankly, any business owner, manager, executive or CEO should have real concern about what these numbers reveal.

Consider almost 4 in 10 workers (38%) are disengaged. “They are sleep-walking through their workday, putting time—but not energy or passion into their work. Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day these workers undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.” (Entrepreneur)

AT WHAT COST?

The cost of disengaged employees is estimated to be between $450-$550 billion, according to a Gallup poll. The impact is far reaching; effectively 40 percent of the workforce is:

  • Neglecting or mistreating customers
  • Actively sullying the company’s reputation
  • Maligning the company on social media
  • Taking from the company because they deem themselves “owed”
  • Making it unpleasant for their co-workers to perform

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM?

From the darkness comes the dawn. This is an opportunity for a firm to commit to make the right hiring decisions, supporting hires with exceptional training, deploying them into an engaged culture, and making sure the employees’ values are aligned with those of the company. True commitment to these processes becomes a competitive advantage.

Where does a company focus on a problem of such enormity? As with most things, it begins with the leadership of the organization. Employees can’t be forced to engage; they will engage if they are inspired.  Inspiration comes from:

  • Making certain employees are involved in the business’ process and their input matters
  • Realizing their contributions and ideas are valued
  • Knowing superior work is recognized and rewarded

Leadership must be creative and committed to enhancing employee engagement.

I’ll close with a quote from President Eisenhower. I’m not sure how well it fits, but I really like the quote, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.”

Over the next weeks I will touch on various tangible things companies can do to inspire employee engagement. Your thoughts and feedback are appreciated.

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