Everyone talks about wanting to improve employee engagement, but is that just because it’s like motherhood and apple pie? Or do organizations genuinely appreciate what’s at stake in getting employees more engaged?
Defining Employee Engagement
In 2006, The Conference Board published a report titled, “Employee Engagement, A Review of Current Research and Its Implications.” It was based on a review of 12 major studies conducted during the preceding four years. After sifting through the data, they ultimately arrived at a definition for employee engagement that illustrates its potential impact on organizational performance: “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work.” Not a bad formula for winning.
If you’re still not convinced it’s that big of a deal, try these numbers on for size. In an HR Magazine article published in March 2007 titled, “Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HR’s Strategic Role,” author Nancy Lockwood reported on some remarkable research data. It showed that employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization. That’s serious bottom line impact no matter how you measure it.
Okay, so maybe you don’t need convincing. You get it. All you want to know is how to do it. How do you get that incredibly valuable bonus from employees called “discretionary effort?” You can find strategies and tactics galore if you’ve got the time to search and sort them out. But a simpler and perhaps surer way to get your arms around it is by focusing on the place you need to come from instead of where you want go.
A Shift in Focus
Instead of salivating over a 20% increase in productivity, concentrate on what matters most to the people who are going to deliver that performance for you. Instead of asking how you can motivate people, ask how you can do a better job of tuning in to what they’re already motivated by. Instead of focusing on the end game, make employee well being your number one priority. . . and let the results take care of themselves.
If all that sounds a bit cryptic and touchy-feely, it’s intended to be. That’s because the “place you need to come from” in fostering employee engagement is more a matter of the heart than it is of the head. It’s also a matter of sincere trust and belief in people. If you can stand squarely on that principle as the driving force for your enterprise, the right strategies and tactics will be apparent, and employee engagement will prove to be much more than just a nice thing to do. You’ll find it’s also the ultimate key to good business.
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