The speed and competitiveness of business in the 21st century requires your engines of productivity to be tuned and fueled.
Workforce engagement continues to be a topic of debate within some organizations, while for others it has become an accepted and critical business metric. The Gallup Organization introduced the concept and brought attention to the potential impact that engagement can have on business results, but for many hard-nosed, analytical executives who are lacking the numbers or ROI, it remains one of those “soft and fuzzy” areas. A word of caution to the hard nosed; don’t try to merge onto the super highways of the 21st century with less than 50% of the power you need.
In the 2010 Survey of Workforce Engagement by BlessingWhite, engagement levels around the world remained stable, which in my opinion is not a positive indicator because it means that 67% of the workforces of North American companies are disengaged. Think about that number for a moment! For me that translates into only a small minority of employees making the level of effort and contribution you need for your company to be competitive and successful! My friend and colleague, Carl Crothers made the following analogy in a recent workshop: “Imagine you have an 8, 6 or 4 cylinder automobile and you’re about to merge onto an interstate. You step on the accelerator expecting a burst of energy to get you safely into the flow of traffic, but the response you get is less than 50% of the power and energy you expected and needed.” This is an unfortunate reality for all types of organizations in North America; they’re running on less than 50% of the performance energy available because their individual human engines (Hearts and Minds) are disengaged. Talk about inefficiency, waste and lost opportunity. Hard nosed or not I think the picture is clear: if you’re not addressing workforce engagement you’re losing money and jeopardizing your competitiveness.
Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us wrote in a recent blog that the smallest unit of productivity is the individual. He questions how organizations will tap into that powerhouse, and goes on to say that “people are thirsting for context and purpose and as a leader one of the most powerful things you can do is provide that context.” This is the heart and art of engagement.
Leadership is also addressed in the BlessingWhite survey. They emphasize that it is imperative that leaders align employee values, goals, and aspirations with those of the organization. It is through this alignment that organizations will achieve sustainable employee engagement, which will allow both to thrive:
Engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud. They have a line-of-sight on their own future and on the organization’s mission and goals. They are enthused and in gear, using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for sustainable business success.
In other words, don’t try to drive your business on the super highways of the 21st. century if your employees and organization are not operating on all cylinders!
The report also highlights the following recommendations:
* Measure less while acting more
* Pay attention to culture
* Managers are key leverage points in the engagement process
In addition the report puts managers and CEO’s on notice that they must accept that they have a huge impact on developing and sustaining workforce engagement. Of course it’s a two way street; employees also have a responsibility for their engagement, but it won’t happen without leaders being actively engaged. Employees are looking for more than business competence, they want their leaders to be interpersonally and relationally competent. They want to trust in your abilities and character – and to understand your personal motivations. They want to see passion and commitment and most of all they want and need to have trust: trust that you will do the right thing.
A word of advice to those who are still not convinced of the benefits of an engaged workforce, “More employees are looking for new opportunities than they were in 2008, suggesting that 2011 will be a challenging year for retention (and a hot market for firms looking to attract top talent).” This finding from the Employee Engagement Report is a like sign in your competitor’s windows, Talented Drivers Wanted. Do you want to take the chance of losing key employees you need to drive your business? If not, you might want to consider focusing on workforce engagement.
One more word about engagement; it’s not about giving away the store. It’s not about more benefits, bonuses and rewards. It’s about tapping into and building intrinsic motivation – its there and waiting to be engaged.
The Renewal Group’s Relationship – Centered Leadership® programs help managers and leaders discover, develop and deploy the interpersonal and organizational fuel to energize the engines of your future. As one recent participant said, “I now know what leadership is, what is required of me and that I want to be a leader.”