Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Two Basic Leadership Behaviors that Increase Employee Engagement

I have still not fully accepted the term “employee engagement”.  It always seemed to me just another management fad buzz word.  How “engaged” are your employees?  Why can’t we just ask, how much do your employees love what they do?  I guess it just doesn’t sound professional enough.
If you’ve somehow missed or been able to ignore the sweeping inundation of the engagement fad, the concept of “employee engagement” came onto the human resources scene in the early 90’s as an evolution of employee satisfaction that includes full involvement in and commitment to the work and the organization.    It has now become an accepted term by management from all disciplines, since numerous studies have linked the level of engaged employees with earnings per share, customer satisfaction, turnover, and productivity.  The attached graph shows some results from a 2007 study by Towers Perrin. (Now Towers Watson.)
It only seems to make practical sense to me that if you can hire and retain people who love their job, your bottom line will reflect that.  They are naturally going to devote more thought, ideas, creativity, time, and effort to their work than if they didn’t enjoy their work. 
But employee engagement has, well, engaged many management experts and yet another study has been released, this time by BlessingWhite, a global consulting firm.  After compiling the information of nearly 11,000 individuals, here are some of their key findings:
·    31% of respondents are engaged.  This corresponds to Gallup’s research that 29% of employees are engaged.  Engagement levels vary by country.  For example, 37% of respondents in India are engaged (the highest) and just 17% are engaged in China (the lowest).  In North America, 33% are engaged, in Europe, 30%.  Southeast Asia is at 26% and Australia/NZ is at 36%.
·    Another 26%, on average, are “almost engaged”. 
·    The higher you are in an organization or the older you are, the more likely you are engaged in your work.
·    The size of the organization made no difference in engagement levels.
·    The most engaged employees are in departments that are closest to the external clients.
One of the descriptions I like best in this study says:  Engaged employees plan to stay for what they give; the Disengaged stay for what they get.
Besides hiring the right people, what can you do to strengthen employee engagement?  That is, how can you help your employees love their job more?  It seems like it should all be on their shoulders, and it’s true, those who know what their strengths are, what they want to do, and what their core values are, will look for work that fits them and allows them to be successful.  Self-knowledge is a pre-requisite for employee engagement, and that may be the reason why younger workers are not as engaged as older ones.  At any level, individuals must take action on this knowledge and ask for the responsibilities and involvement that will make their work lives more satisfying.
That said, there are many things management can do to boost engagement levels.  Here are two key leadership behaviors that will make a difference when done consistently:
1.   Communicate often.  Convey the reasons behind decisions, the challenges and opportunities you are facing, the organizational values, plans, and strategies you are implementing, and how appreciative you are of their hard work.  Be crystal clear when communicating expectations and get their feedback on how things are going.  Ask questions to involve them in creating plans, solving problems, and to find out about their ideas.  Without breaking any confidentialities, be transparent.
2.   Get to know your direct reports well.  What are their strengths, their career goals, their weaknesses?  What are they struggling with in their current job?  What do they have a flair for that hasn’t yet been developed?  Match their strengths with projects and tasks so that they – and you and the company - can be successful.  Offer them training and opportunities for development so their talents can be honed.  Coach them in a way that develops mutual trust and respect.
If you can incorporate the above suggestions into your day, you will not only help your employees love their jobs more, you will become a better leader.  And all of you should feel more engaged. 
Sorry about the language!

1 comment:

  1. Nice post!!! Employee engagement lies at crossing point of most extreme commitment for the business and greatest fulfillment for representatives.