“Engaged Workers Immune to Stress from Long Commutes”
“Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs”
“Engaged Workers Report Twice as Much ‘Job Creation’ as Disengaged Workers”
This is just a small sample of the headlines I recently found when I searched online for the term “employee engagement”. As employers, we certainly believe it’s better for us if our employees are engaged – poll after poll bears this out. Engaged employees seem happier with their jobs and their life circumstances. They are generally better, more productive employees. Engaged employees usually have greater self-esteem and hold themselves to higher standards than those who aren’t engaged in their work.
There are voices of people who study employee engagement for a living. Social scientists, psychologists, and business owners – people who want to know if worker engagement is increasing, decreasing, or unchanging. Some worry about an apparent decline in worker engagement, which could be related to employment trends over the last 4-5 years.
I have several questions of my own regarding employee engagement:
- First, what do we mean when we say an employee is “engaged”?
- What causes workers to be engaged?
- How do we measure “employee engagement”?
- Can we improve employee engagement?
WHAT IS “EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT”?
According to one source, employee engagement is “a measureable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues, and organization which profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work.” We used to know it as “job satisfaction”.
Whereas “satisfaction” suggests everything is OK (so long as we don’t ask questions to which we don’t want to hear the answers), “engagement” says active participation. Truly engaged workers aren’t the passive type.
WHAT CAUSES EMPLOYEES TO BE ENGAGED?
Most employees are engaged because their sense of ethics and values and their goals are compatible with those of the company. When employees feel they’re valued by their employers – through frequent and personally directed visual, oral, and/or written cues, as well as providing them with the resources they need to perform their jobs well – they’re more likely to engage, also. There are also certain qualities every leader possesses that help ensure employee engagement.
Some employees are strongly self-motivated and self-directed – engagement is an integral part of their makeup – but they are in the minority. It’s a giant risk you take, as an employer, if you assume everyone in your firm is as dedicated to the cause as you and for the same reasons. As leaders, we have a responsibility to get our employees engaged and keep them engaged.
HOW DO WE MEASURE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT?
There isn’t a consistent or recognized standard for determining how engaged employees are. Companies that conduct such research determine engagement levels according to their own yardsticks. The Gallup Organization has a 12-question survey (the “Q12”) that they believe identifies relative feelings of employee engagement.
Gallup’s questions include:
- Do you know what’s expected of you at work?
- At work, do your opinions seem to count? and
- Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
How people respond to the questionnaire determines whether they are engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged.
According to a recent Gallup survey, roughly 70% of American workers polled said they were not engaged or actively disengaged in their jobs. Interestingly, the Gallup questionnaire didn’t ask respondents about their self-motivation (personal drive), worth, or ethical values. Rather, it suggests that management has a responsibility to its employees to make them feel valued and keep them engaged.
What do you think?
CAN WE IMPROVE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT?
The simple answer (from the world of quality) is, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” If we can measure employee engagement — if we can gather the right kind of information — we can improve it.
Of course, we don’t stop at data collection. We analyze the data to spot anomalies and trends, such as decreased worker engagement, and determine what causes them. Once we identify the causes, we can take steps (such as process improvement, employee training, and others) to minimize or eliminate them.
When did you last look at employee engagement in your organization? Do you have any stories of improving employee engagement?
Thanks for your time.
- “State of the American Workplace: 2008-2010”, Gallup Consulting, 2010 – http://www.gallup.com/consulting/142724/state-american-workplace-2008-2010.aspx
- “Employee Engagement Report – 2011”, BlessingWhite, Inc., 2011 – http://www.blessingwhite.com/research.asp?pid=1
- Blacksmith, Nikki, and Harter, Jim, “Majority of Americans Not Engaged in Their Jobs”, Gallup Wellbeing, 28 October 2011 – http://www.gallup.com/poll/150383/Majority-American-Workers-Not-Engaged-Jobs.aspx
- Brown, Debbie, “12 Questions to Measure Employee Engagement”, HR Issues Blog, 9 June 2010 – http://wwwdandbconsultinginc.blogspot.com/2010/06/12-questions-to-measure-employee.html
- Esty, Katharine, and Gewirtz, Mindy, “Creating a Culture of Employee Engagement”, Boston Globe (online), 23 June 2008 – http://www.boston.com/jobs/nehra/062308.shtml
- Rick, Torben, “Has Lack of Employee Engagement Become the Norm”, Torben Rick’s Blog, 1 April 2012 – http://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/leadership/has-lack-of-employee-engagement-become-the-norm/