According to Gallup (2018), only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged, and one-quarter of employees report that they are actively disengaged. The result of disengagement ranges from turn-over to productivity loss. The costs of this situation are staggering in terms of employee turnover alone. For IT teams, additional costs include unmeasurable institutional loss, decreased end-user satisfaction, the potential for increased error rates, and huge challenges to adopting and adapting new technology. More importantly, it does not make for an enjoyable work experience.
What does Employee Engagement Mean to You?
As is often the case, Wikipedia’s description of Employee Engagement resonates with me:
“Employee Engagement is a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.”
How do you know they are engaged? Based on limited research backed by close to 40 years of management experience, I rely on the follow questions to make my own assessment of an organization’s employee engagement:
- Meaning: Do employees find meaning and purpose in their jobs? Are they happy at work? Do they participate in meetings?
- Autonomy: Does your team have the power to shape their work and environment in ways that allow them to perform at their best? Are they empowered to decide HOW to execute against goals and desired outcomes?
- Growth: Are employees stretched and challenged in ways that result in personal and professional progress? Are professional growth opportunities taken advantage of? Is progress acknowledged and celebrated?
- Impact: Do people see positive and worthwhile outcomes and results from their work? Do they participate with enthusiasm in celebrations of team success?
- Connection: Do employees feel a sense of belonging? Do they connect to the mission, values, and direction of the organization? Do they offer to help each other without having to be asked? Do they hang out with each other at lunch and outside of work?
Who Should Take Responsibility for Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is everyone’s responsibility, from executive-level leadership to HR, team managers, and employees. Although roles and activities differ, every individual and team should be held responsible for the success of your organization’s employee engagement initiatives. Unless employees assume some responsibility for their own engagement, the efforts of management will have limited effect on improving engagement.
At the same time, I’ve seen too many organizations placing the total responsibility on the employee. I contend it is the accountability of management to commit to actions and behaviors that enable and foster engagement. For instance, many employees are frustrated because they feel like they have to read their manager’s mind. They don’t know how they are doing and how they can do better. The annual performance review is sometimes their only chance to find out, and that event is so stressful and formal that the environment is not conducive for improvements.
This situation is not completely the fault of management. In some organizations, spans of control have become so large that managers have 15-18 direct reports with a broad range of technical disciplines to watch over.
Engaging and mobilizing employees can feel like a daunting challenge on top of an already busy schedule. There are many simple strategies to engage and mobilize employees. They cost almost nothing to implement, can be put into place immediately, and have huge impact.
For instance, one opportunity that many leaders have, even at the C-level, is to give more frequent and informal feedback about how each employee is doing. That way, everyone in the organization knows what is expected of them and how they can get better.
The Seven Questions
There are seven simple questions every leader must answer and communicate to employees. As with advertising, frequency counts. Small, informal conversations go a long way in building employee engagement and performance – especially when they include teachable moments about different situations and details. The questions include:
- What do I expect from you?
- What are you doing well?
- What, if anything, can you be doing better?
- What, if anything, do I want you to do better?
- (If appropriate) What will happen if you improve (e.g., more responsibility, more time with leadership, more desirable assignments)?
- (If appropriate) What will happen if you don’t improve?
- How can I help?
While all of these questions are important, the last question is the MOST important. It shows the employee that the leader cares and is not merely abdicating responsibility or shifting blame.
Employee Engagement Self-Assessment
To see how well you are doing engaging and mobilizing your employees, take our free self-assessment: click here.
Until next time, have a great week!
ITeffectivity LLC was founded in 2013 with the mission of helping to bring order to the ever-changing world of the IT leader. Since then Mary’s have advised over 70 leaders as well as conducted over 20 major consulting assignments on behalf of Fortune 100 firms to small non-profits.
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