According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, only 30% of employees consider themselves “engaged” at work. By default, that means 70% come to work wanting to be somewhere else. There are a host of programs available to improve employee engagement. They include techniques for asking employees for their opinions, holding celebrations to mark financial or performance milestones, throwing company parties, and requesting employees to contribute ideas. And that’s all good stuff.
According to Forbes Magazine contributor Ann Latham, however, “while there is a high correlation between employee engagement survey results and business performance, there is no proof that the former causes the latter.” She goes on to say, “that’s because it doesn’t. Engagement, as measured by employee surveys, does not cause success. Engagement is, at best, a symptom of success.”
In other words, if you are happy doing your work, you will be more engaged, not the other way around. Frankly, as a manager myself, I don’t care if my employees are engaged as long as they produce quality work in a timely manner and stick around long enough to justify my investment in their training. It seems that if managers focus on how they manage the work so employees are successful doing it, employees will probably report they are “engaged.”
Six Items To Enhance Employee Engagement
In their landmark study published in First Break All the Rules, Curt Kaufman and Marcus Buckingham identified key factors in the workplace that, when employees agreed were present, productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction all went up, while employee turnover went down.
The top six were:
1. I know what is expected of me at work.
2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job right.
3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
It seems to me that the steps to getting managing people well should include:
1. Clearly define goals and expectations you have of your employees on a regular basis. If you expect people to perform at high levels, reiterate that message regularly. Great sports coaches understand this principle, hence the famous locker room chats in which many engage.
2. Make sure people get the equipment and resources they need to do their jobs well. When you give them cheap tools or don’t hire enough help to do the work well, they get the message from you that it’s not all that important to do good work. Why should they care if you don’t?
3. Put people in the jobs they do well at and minimize the distractions. Google does this by providing everything from on campus gyms and free cafeterias to laundry rooms and a recreation centers, allowing their programmers to concentrate on writing code. You might not have the resources to do that, but can you eliminate pointless meetings and useless paperwork so your people can concentrate on their work?
4. Take the time to notice and make a positive comment to each person about his or her work at least once per week. If you can’t think of anything positive to say, and you’re sure you looking closely enough, then perhaps you should think about getting rid of them.
5. Get to know a little about their families, their kids, and their home situation. It’s hard to show you care if you don’t have a clue who they are.
6. Ensure that there is a path for every employee to improve and grow. That means you may have to contribute to their training or helping them go to school, but if can be as simple as coaching them to perform at a higher level. For example, train them to step into your place if you have to call in sick or are on vacation.
Employee engagement is a really good thing because when it’s there, it usually reflects high performance and low employee turnover. But it’s a symptom, not necessarily a goal to pursue. Effective people management will get the results you want whether your employees are engaged or not.