Employee Engagement – Crisis or Opportunity?
Employee Engagement – Crisis or Opportunity?

Employee Engagement – Crisis or Opportunity?

We are seeing more and more talk about employee engagement. Some of this is due to perceptions of millennials in today’s workforce. But this may be more of a misperception than reality. For some industries and companies it is a crisis. For others it is an opportunity.

I recently saw a survey (and the results) put out by a local business that was trying to measure employee engagement. I found the results interesting. While the summary numbers of the survey showed positive trends, those results were VERY misleading.

The basic underlying aspect that convinced me that the employer’s summary of the results painted a much brighter picture than the reality was that while some trends were looking more positive, the reality was that the number of employees who responded to the survey had dropped. Not only did it drop, but in the third year of the survey (the section I saw was for a segment of the business) the number of responses had dropped from over 1,000 responses down to a bit over 500. No matter what the responses were, the fact was that the actual participation indicated an increase in disengagement simply by the lack of participation in the survey itself.

Disengagement is expensive. Employees take every sick day and vacation day they can. They spend more and more time on Facebook rather than on actual tasks they do for work. They aren’t motivated and just do what they need to in order to stay under the radar. Some of them work at sowing discontent and conflict.

In Andrew Sherman’s latest book, The Crisis of Disengagement, he talks about some of the trends and costs. One source he cites is a 2014 study done by Gallup.

( http://www.gallup.com/poll/181289/majority-employees-not-engaged-despite-gains-2014.aspx) that showed only 31.5% of employees were actively engaged. Currently that number is up slightly, but is still only 35%. The study also cited that 51% were not engaged, and 17.5% were actively disengaged. That 17.5% isn’t productive, and they may actually be spreading that culture to the 51% in the middle!

Getting active engagement of your employees isn’t easy. It is certainly more difficult for some managers and personalities than others. But it is important for any manager. If you don’t think so, consider your most motivated employees and what they can accomplish in a day. Then look for those who are actively disengaged (I bet you know who they are) and what they accomplish during a day. Is there a big difference? Now take into consideration not only how much, but what is the quality of their efforts.

Engagement starts at the top. Paying someone a bonus to make them “more engaged” isn’t productive. It starts with holding management accountable. I’m not talking about front line management. It starts with senior management. If senior management actually cares about their staff and connects with them it is a start. On the other hand, if managers just look at their staff as easily replaceable cogs in the machine they can’t expect a high level of engagement by their employees.

Senior managers who don’t want to even talk to their front line people and go out of their way to avoid engaging them and learning about them and what is important to them are not going to get thee best results from their people. If managers are seen as caring only about themselves and what is best for them in the form of bonuses, promotions and recognition they are feeding the problem.

So, what can you do about it? That is a different discussion.

(previously published on Linkedin 3/2/2017)


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