How to Stop the Hunger for Employee Engagement

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Businesswoman biting laptop screenThere are probably a billion articles on employee engagement that we can find on Google right now. It’s a highly discussed topic that gets the attention it deserves, but not enough of the action that it actually needs. I mean, think about some of the reasons we talk about employee engagement: lack of employee engagement because of poor leadership, no opportunities to display creativity, non-existing employee benefits, and the list goes on. One of the obvious reasons we talk about employee engagement is because only 13 percent of the global workforce is engaged at work, based on Gallup’s research. And it’s a big problem that is costing the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year. We can speculate over whether it’s because organizations do not engage employees properly or because employee engagement lacks real strategy behind it.

Whatever the case may be, it’s not a question if organizations should invest in employee engagement; it’s a question of whether they want to or not. And we can debate about that all day, but the smart folks that actually roll-up their sleeves and go to work on employee engagement see a 10 percent increase in profits by $2,400 per employee, per year, when they do.

Then there’s another obvious reason: Engaged employees are more productive, 38 percent more productive if you must know. But that’s not what makes me pause; it’s when I hear that only 25 percent of business leaders have an employee engagement strategy put together that I have to take a step back and catch my breath, based on research from Dale Carnegie.

Organizations need to stop the hunger for employee engagement. It’s real, it exists, and it’s a big problem. It’s leaving employees disengaged all around the world. To do this, organizations should consider three of the following:

Consider New Leadership

Does it sound harsh? It’s certainly debatable… But what I’m really trying to get to the root of is that employer and employee relations are dismal. According to research from Officevibe, 89 percent of employers think their people leave for more money, when actually 12 percent of employees actually do. Wildly enough, 75 percent of employees voluntary leave their jobs versus actually quitting, because they quit their bosses. Of course, the reasons behind why employees leave their jobs varies for each case, but it should leave people wondering what’s the cause of all this? Is it due to the lack of communication leaders may have with employees? How deep does the rabbit hole go? The research also found that only 40 percent of workers know about their company’s goals, strategies and tactics. How can you attempt to engage employees if not everyone knows what’s actually going on? How do you sell a product or service if not even half of your workforce is aligned with your company’s vision?

Let Your People Be Themselves

How many of us actually work for an organization that lets us be ourselves or that focuses on bringing out who we are? And no, I’m not counting the IT guys who get to walk around the office in flip flops all day. For the less fortunate, wouldn’t it be nice to feel like a real individual at work that’s appreciated for the skills and experience you bring to the table? It may just keep some employees from bolting at the first opportunity they get elsewhere. Remember, it’s easy to say, “trust your people” to do their work and empower them to make themselves more a part of the organization, but it’s probably more challenging to let employees be themselves during this process.

Recently, a brilliant study from Daniel M. Cable of the London Business School; Harvard Professor, Francesca Gino; and UNC’s Brad Staats, took over an Indian call center that was dealing with a high burnout rate to test individuality and its existence within an organization. The study set up two different orientation systems: one program concentrated on the individual employees and the other featured company leaders discussing the organization’s history and values. The orientation group that focused on individual employees and their skill sets, experienced an increase in retention by 47.2 percent versus the other group. It was also reported that customers reported higher satisfaction with the individual focused group. What was awesome about this study was that when you focus on individuals for who they are and utilize their particular skill sets and experience, these people will be more engaged with the work they do. Why not give it a shot?

Make Work Fun & Rewarding

There’s a time for work, and then there’s a time to appreciate those around you that dedicate their time and efforts to supporting, what should be a shared goal amongst everyone. Give employees the chance to enjoy what they do, who they work with, and why they do it. Make work fun and offer rewards for those who work their tail off. Once on a Friday evening in Cambridge, Mass., I ran into a group of employees who were participating in a company pub crawl. It was a large group and everybody was having a blast. I think what makes this moment stick out in my mind is because of how cool everyone looked like they were with each other. That group of employees looked like they actually liked each other. Clearly, everyone was there to consume alcohol, but there were no small cliques of people.

Now, while that’s one way of increasing employee engagement and participants for company events, there are other ways of doing so. Research from Officevibe found that 70 percent of Forbes Global 2,000 companies will use gamification to boost engagement, retention and revenues. And why not? If people work hard, then they deserve to enjoy an embarrassment of riches from time to time. Elise Olding, who is a research director at Gartner, said:

Gamification can help organizations make the workplace more engaging and productive. The same incentives that inspire game players to strive for the next level in a computer game can also inspire your employees to reach for a higher level of performance and engagement — if they are properly applied.

Gamification is a fun way to tap into employee feedback as well. Feedback is key if you want to know what keeps employees engaged and having fun at work.

Stopping Employee Engagement Hunger

Combating the hunger for employee engagement doesn’t have to be a difficult or a daunting process. Organizations need to understand if they don’t have the right leadership in place to lead the charge, then doing so will be extremely difficult. Companies need to focus on instilling a culture that invites people to be who they are. Not doing so, risks losing productivity and increases the potential for turnover. So why not build around your talent versus forcing them to assimilate and act like robots? Smart companies know the difference in value between having workplace zombies and engaged workers. Let employees have fun at work or allow them to take walks to clear their minds if they need to refocus if it means showing employees their organization cares for them. The more attune employees are at applying their skill sets at work then the better everyone will be. Just ask the organizations that see an increase in profits by 10 percent per employee, per year.

By Fernando Ramirez