Employee Engagement

A New Approach to Employee Engagement

Employee engagement scores around the world remain alarmingly low and have barely budged in over a decade. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, only 15% of employees are involved, enthusiastic and committed to their work and workplace. A quick walk around many corporate offices will reinforce the fact that so many people have simply checked out.

Improving engagement is an uphill battle worth fighting for

Companies spend thousands of hours conducting employee engagement surveys, hiring consulting firms, creating focus groups and working teams who roll out initiative after failed initiative – all with the best intentions of simply trying to get their employees to care a little bit more. Why should we care about our employees being engaged? Because when 85% of the workforce has checked out, it results in approximately $7 trillion dollars in lost productivity.

With more than half of our workforce stuck in this rut, what can a leader do to break the cycle once and for all? The unfortunate anwser is: not much. Corporations have been disloyal to their employees for decades and now the tides have shifted. Engagement and commitment is a two-way street and the utopia of full employee engagement is a dead-end proposition. 

Despite the odds, there is a good reason to keep trying. If you can’t get behind the altruistic motives, then perhaps a financial motive will help. in a 2016 survey of the S&P 500, companies with highly engaged teams outperformed their peers by 147% in earnings per share. 

You need to take a different approach

Want to be one of those top performing companies? Here’s what you can do as a leader to make a difference.

Put your own mask on first.  Your team watches everything you do. They pay attention to what you care about and what you don’t. If you’re not bringing that ambitious, collaborative, high energy, optimistic tone to the office every day, your team has little chance of being self-motivated for very long.

Darwin had a point.  Nature (and business) is all about survival of the fittest. Parents of animals decide which of their offspring to feed and nurture so the species can continue to thrive. You can’t help everyone. Find the 20% of your team who has a chance and put all of your energy into deepening their engagement.  They will become a natural extension of your leadership style and set the example for others to follow.

One bad apple does spoil the barrel. It’s one thing to be passively disinterested. It’s a completely different situation when you have team members who are purposefully disruptive and disengaged. The toxicity this introduces into the team culture is nearly impossible to recover from. A strong leader needs to manage these team members “up or out” very quickly.

Pragmatism yields big results

Taking a ruthlessly pragmatic approach to improving employee engagement may feel a bit callous, but it’s a highly effective way to retain your top talent. Taking this approach will lead your organization to stronger performance levels with team members highly motivated to succeed.