Myth: Everyone is doing their job.
I know. It probably seems like a strange time of year to be talking about how “engaged” your employees are. After all, it is a time when work tends to slow down due to holiday distractions and employee vacations. So why would I recommend thinking about employee engagement at this time of year?
Well, first let’s look at why it’s even important to pay attention to whether or not your employees are fully engaged---meaning they’re on board with the larger mission of the company and actively working toward achieving it. With that definition in mind, what percentage of your employees would you say are engaged at your company? 80%? 60%? At the very least, 40%? Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but according to a recent gallop poll on employee engagement, about 52 percent of employees in the United States are not engaged and 18 percent are actively disengaged. Only 30 percent are engaged. Surprised? Most of us usually are. Unless we’re in human resources, we tend to work day to day with the unconscious assumption that those around us are as engaged in our company’s success as we are.
That’s a costly assumption. According to an interview with M.J. Helms, Director of Operations at The Ashton Group, companies lose 350 million dollars a year due to disengaged employees. When people are just showing up to get a paycheck, they can negatively impact employee attitude, customer relations and business partnerships. Turnover rates and safety incidents increase, while innovation and productivity plummet (the gallop poll provides specific measurements on this).
So why am I risking being the Grinch by choosing to bring up the topic of employee engagement (or a lack thereof) during the holidays? For those of you who know me well, you probably don’t have to guess that the answer has to do with proactive planning. The holidays may be the holidays, but it’s also the final quarter of the calendar year which is the perfect time for assessing the past year, keeping strategies in place where you had success, making adjustments where mistakes were made, and creating next year’s plan. This year, if you haven’t already, view last year’s challenges through the filter of “employee engagement.” Does that change your assessment at all? Do you recognize any of the “symptoms” that you may have missed before?” High turnover, lack of creativity among your team, slowed productivity? All those gaps between planning and actual follow-through that you blamed on poor time management or organizational skills may have actually been caused by employee disengagement. For that matter, if your employees are disengaged, time management and organization won’t be too high on their list of priorities.
The solution? Well, of course there isn’t just a silver bullet. There are many solutions that I use with my clients, and the interview I mention above does a good job of providing recommendations. The one solution I’ll mention specifically, however, is employee appreciation. Studies show that feeling appreciated is the strongest driver of employee satisfaction. So in this fourth quarter, be proactive in cultivating employee engagement by working “an employee appreciation plan” into your larger strategic plan for 2011. Don’t just assume it will happen haphazardly or hand it off to HR. As business leaders, we have to take responsibility for nurturing the level of engagement of those around us. So in the spirit of this holiday season, when you’re employees are distracted by the holidays, take the time to plan for how you will help them re-engage in the New Year. Think of it as giving a gift to your bottom line!
We can help you and your team become focused and engaged.