There is much said about employee engagement these days — how it is essential to great business outcomes, and how it is often shockingly low. Gallup’s 2009 statistical analysis across multiple studies show pretty radical correlations between having engaged employees and corporate outcomes.
Comparing top-quartile to bottom-quartile engagement business units resulted in median percentage differences of:
- 12 percent increase in customer loyalty/engagement
- 16 percent increase in profitability
- 18 percent increase in productivity
- 25 percent reduction in turnover for high-turnover companies
- 49 percent reduction in turnover for low-turnover companies
- 49 percent reduction in safety incidents
- 27 percent reduction in shrinkage
- 37 percent reduction in absenteeism
- 41 percent reduction in patient safety incidents
- 60 percent increase in quality (defects)
There’s another avalanche of writing and advice on how to engage employees, and another slightly smaller pile that heckles some of that advice, with deservedly sharp humor.
A quick tour of the of the employee engagement issue, would begin with the research findings work of Tower Perrin and Gallup. From there, there are two fast and fantastic TED talks (these are among the most popular talks and they aren’t new, so you may have seen them already.) The first is Daniel Pink’s Drive, which talks about what motivates people at an individual level. The second thing to look at is Simon Sinek’s talk on how great leaders inspire action, which talks about how to align people with an idea.
What is employee engagement? There are several excellent definitions, but it amounts to whether an employee cares about their job enough to collect the energy and focus required to do it well.
So — if engagement is roughly the equivalent of doing a good job (it is at least the attempt or desire to do a good job), then what does it take to do a good job? Badges? Employee recognition? Picnics? Yammer? I’m not knocking those as contributing to good environments, I’m just sayin'. Those are frosting, not cake.
Here’s one way to look at it: doing a good job requires the ability to do the job, a reason to do a good job, and (perhaps counterintuitively you’ll say) the permission to do a good job.
The Ability to do Good Work
This obviously has several components.
From the individual, it demands a fit of skills and thinking.
From management, it requires a clear understanding on what it means to do a good job, as well as the opportunity to ask and learn.
From the IT and Structure of the organization, it means providing the appropriate tools, colleagues and resources to do that job.