Here’s a kiwi snapshot on employee engagement with some illustrative case studies. Similar surveys have numbers fluctuating in similar proportions. They do vary from year to year, location to location and from industry to industry. The ratios are similar too in other nations. There always seems to be a small group of highly engaged, a small group of highly disengaged and a large chunk of people who show up and do what they have to and no more. What would be more useful to you than averaged figures across New Zealand as a whole would be information specific to your workplace. And even more useful would be some analysis and understanding on what you need versus what you’ve got. Having an army of 100% engaged people sounds like it would be a great idea until they discover the only work you have is routine and repetitive. Maybe, just maybe, having half to two-thirds of your people neutrally engaged is OK? Maybe it only takes a few hyper-engaged superstars to generate the productivity and the revenue and the profits? Where and upon whom do you focus your limited attention? (Maybe I should have used the word “finite” instead of “limited” in that last sentence?)
It’s a good article and a great advert for Gallup with some genuine success stories. And I am a fan of the power of engaged people and workplaces. BUT….
…I disagree with what I think is a really critical point – their very definition of what employee engagement and disengagement are”
“the engaged…they’re excited about work, feel connected to their company and want to actively drive innovation and move the organisation forward.”
“the disengaged - their unhappiness infuses everything they do at work.”
Happiness and excitement per se have nothing to do with it. Hey, it might be a wonderful and amped up world if everyone was happy and excited all the time but that is not what engagement is. Engagement is someone choosing to do more than they have to because they want to. It is an observable behaviour. They may or not be happy or excited. We’re not psychic and even they may not know specifically why they do go above and beyond. It might be guilt or a sense of obligation.
It really confuses things for people who lead people at work to read an article espousing examples of drivers of engagement as:
“- free health checks for staff,
- nutritional seminars,
- subsidised gym memberships
- complimentary health insurance, including for employees’ children aged under 21
- funding for cervical smears for all female employees”
Again, I’m not knocking the article or the companies that provide the benefits above. If it’s affordable, then they’re no doubt an attractor to potential employees and of great benefit to existing ones. I’m self employed and I’d love those benefits. But the primary drivers of employee engagement, which is the very specific application of discretionery effort, are far more effortful practices that aren’t just throwing money at people in different form. Frankly, people might prefer more money and be left alone to look after their own nutrition, fitness and health. They probably wouldn’t admittedly and the employers may well benefit from a healthier and less absent workforce.
Employee engagement is about connecting to people’s minds not their muscles or digestive systems. Develop their skills, give them some influence and demonstrate that they’re part of something bigger than themselves and their effort (and extra effort) makes a real difference.
There are definite benefits to your bottom line in enhancing your employees’ engagement levels (whatever they are) and maybe a survey is a good starting point but if that’s all you’re doing, that’s like suspecting you need to get a hair cut and all you to do is buy a mirror.
Hey people who blame the media for whatever current controversy, you’re probably partly right. However, the only reason they do that stuff is get get viewers / readers / listeners and increasingly, clicks and likes. If you have EVER viewed / read / listened or clicked a salacious / bullying / distorted story, you’re part of the problem. Stop contributing to the financial incentives that encourage sensationalism, bullying etc. That is all that will influence them, not your (or my) online externalising of responsibility. Society blaming the media is akin to society blaming a mirror.
Stop Start Continue: Thinking Creatively & Provocatively About The Past, Present & Future Of Workplaces
I have a new Kindle eBook out now on Amazon. It extrapolates a few workplace trends. Sometimes facetiously. Sometimes hopefully. Always provocatively and creatively. Laugh and learn. Learn ideas on being a better boss. Laugh at what else you might spent the $3.58 on.
Valentine’s Day has been and gone and the word “love”has been tossed around frivolously, commercially, curiously and genuinely. This article refers to the benefits of having workers who “love” to work at your workplace.
They do stretch the meaning of the term ‘love’ to a broad definition. By the time they’ve qualified it, we’ve reached the levels of emotion I express when I declare that, “I love pizza!”
Pizza is awesome, I do spend a lot of time with it and I genuinely intend to commit to it for the rest of my life. (Albeit a life possibly shortened by pizza consumption.) Would that level of commitment and emotional connection make me a more productive worker?
There’s certainly lots of research and common sense indicating that people with high levels of emotional connection to their work do make more effort and get more out of what they do. This creates a virtuous circle as that feedback stimulates more effort and so forth. This is where I would make a distinction between people loving their work versus those who love their workplaces. There’s a difference. People who love their work for its own sake, get into that virtuous circle and score that productivity boost for themselves and their employers. People who love their workplaces may or may not. Their connection is with showing up to a place or a group of people. It’s better than hating your workplace but I haven’t seen any substance backing up that loving your workplace makes for significantly greater productivity.
I do love pizza but I’ve been seeing felafels. It’s not pizza, it’s me.
Toronto’s crack-smoking Mayor Rob Ford may seem to have nothing to do with a blog about employee engagement. Although, getting your employees addicted to crack might engage them in the sort term? I caught a passing headline about Toronto’s city government ceasing to survey how engaged their employees were. Government workers are infamously and probably unfairly disproportionately disengaged at the best of times, so it seems a shame that the bosses no longer seem interested in knowing how disengaged they are in times that can best be described as “not the best of times.”
“The City of Toronto passed a $9.6 billion operating budget for 2014 on Thursday, but one item that got slashed at the last minute would certainly catch the attention of HR professionals.
Mayor Rob Ford introduced some last-minute spending cuts to trim the budget by $60 million, but councillors only agreed to two of them: Cutting a print issue of a city magazine, and eliminating the employee engagement survey.
The engagement survey was expected to cost $250,000 this year, but councillors voted 24-21 to axe it.
“That’s 250 man, I’ll take anything right now,” Ford said after the vote.”
I write the funny last page ‘Last Laugh’ in the magazine ‘Employment Today.’ I try and keep well ahead of deadline so my articles are usually written a couple of months ahead of when they actually get published. The one I’m currently writing is for an edition where the theme will be the future of the workplace. There’s predicting the future and there’s making the future and there’s guessing and there’s not bothering. I think those are the options. People try to predict trends, fashions, sales targets, market forces, lotto numbers, weather, earthquakes. There are winners and losers. Experts are routinely wrong and even more routinely remiss at noticing their errors. Reporters cite the expert de jour ad infinitum on whatever their topic is regardless of whatever their track record was.
I do own the ‘Back To The Future’ DVD box set so I could look it up but I’m not going to. I think that 2015 might be the year that Marty McFly and Doc went to from 1985? Might have been August? They made some real efforts at guesstimating a vision of a future – a future which is about to hit us smack in the face. Again, we’re probably going to be missing our flying cars but I think the ‘backward pants’ thing is depressingly close to the mark. Bieber may already be doing that.
So, as I write my article in the present about the future for a magazine that exists in the future, there are a fair few predictable types out there with their own predictions for 2014 and employee engagement. Some are tossing around new buzzphrases like ‘Engagement 2.0. Yuk yuk. Here’s one set of predictions I find quite sensible. Here’s another which might be right(ish) but I find a little worrisome. (Is that how you spell “worrisome”? I’m not sure which… concerns me.)
I might see if the kids want to watch ‘Back To The Future.’ Some great quotes, “Roads! Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”
Yes you will Doc, yes you will. Sorry.
This article is from a publication called BedTimes. That title piqued my curiousity as the article was about employee engagement. It transpired that BedTimes was a publication for the sleep products industry. I don’t know what else I thought it might be. And it was a very good article from an employer’s perspective, not a writer, journalist or expert, consultant, or commentator. Someone, as they say, with skin in the game. And that was kind of their point.
The phrase “skin in the game” has been attributed to Warren Buffett about having your own money in an investment, as opposed to just talking about it or investing for others. (It wasn’t Jimmy Buffett unless you count poker games as investments.) I’d kind of hoped it traced back to roman times and gladiators because then it would have something of a literal bent. But no. From an employee engagement perspective, it makes sense. People who actually own a company tend to work, as they say, like they own the company. It’s easy to offer glib advice to people wanting to work their way up corporate ladders to work like they own they company. I actually agree with the advice but it’s often just easy to say. You cannot make others feel like they have a genuine stake. But employers can set things up so that employees do have a genuine alignment between their own goals and that of the company. But it’s foundation stuff, not some ‘plaster over the cracks’ 2-month project.
For a start, Brain-Based Bosses can structure their recruitment processes to seek, hire and retain people who already have goals that align with the company’s. If the company succeeds, then they do. Part of that might be financial but not in isolation. There needs to be more. That’s a whole lot easier than changing people or changing goals or making other people change goals midstream. Those ways lead to a lot of pretending. And, you know, sometimes even that pretending leads to a short term uptick in engagement. ‘Fake it til you make it’ kind of thing. But it isn’t sustainable nor that much of an uptick.
I particularly liked this paragraph in the article about why, in many or most cases, such employee engagement improvement efforts do not work:
“Frankly, it’s because in many cases employees really don’t have a stake. Too many companies try to paste “engagement” initiatives on a foundation that’s fundamentally flawed. It won’t work. True engagement is a natural, organic extension of a company’s culture, and people can’t be cajoled, tricked or bribed into feeling it. There just aren’t any shortcuts.”
New Zealand’s gambling agency the TAB have a slogan, “It means more when you’ve got something on it.” That’s their version of having skin in the game. You can watch a sporting event and appreciate it. You can watch it and might even experience some vicarious emotions if you support the team that’s playing from your country, town, school or one you unilaterally and arbitrarily have chosen because you find their colours, mascot or swarthy south american star player aesthetically appealing. But nothing is quite like the effect on your biochemistry when the team’s loss causes you to lose something too. It might be the money you wagered. It might be you lose face at the pub or workplace the next day. But you lose or win something depending on the results.
It can’t just be the potential loss of a job or bonus if things go south. There needs to be potential wins too. Don’t underestimate the value of pride. When your employees are at parties (in their own time, of course) and others ask them what they do or where they work, what do they say? That’s actually quite a good indicator of pride and engagement, or the lack thereof.
How many employees feel that way about their workplace? Do yours? Does Jimmy Buffet? Of course, his lack of feeling might be due to other causes entirely…
The economy loses billions of dollars a year due to absenteeism caused by stress, according to this Australian research. That absenteeism from whatever cause drags on productivity is obvious. And, no doubt, variations of causes attributed to this thing called ‘stress’ contributes to that.
Setting aside for a moment those workplaces and individuals where there genuinely is a stressor from there being too much work or too challenging work relative to those supposed to perform it, another stressor can be disengagement. It’s not that the work is too much or too hard in itself, it’s that the work and the workplace and the boss are set up and managed in such a way that prevents or lessens the opportunities for workers to experience regular autonomy, development or any sense of purpose.
A recent Gallup Business Journal article makes the connection between the quality of the workplace and illness. If workers were breathing in gas or particles at work that posed a health hazard, that’d be in violation of any decent country’s employment laws. Just because a workplace’s toxins seep into people via their brains doesn’t make them any less hazardous. Yes, people will fake illnesses and ‘pull a sickie’ as implied in the image above and probably that occurs disproportionately on Mondays, Fridays and proximate to public holidays on long weekends. That’s a very different thing.
“The quality of the workplace can be linked to serious physical and mental illnesses such as clinical depression and chronic anxiety that can have a significant negative impact on workers’ job performance and on their personal lives.”
An icon of disengagement is Ferris Bueller from the 1986 movie. He was skiving off high school not work but his sentiments still apply:
“The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom; I’m a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh… you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor’s office. That’s worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.”
I’m not in Milwaukee. I’ve never been there. I know if it from the NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks and wasn’t ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Laverne And Shirley’ set there? I think the state of Wisconsin produces a lot of beer and cheese, judging from the football fans famous for wearing ‘cheese heads.’ But I did find an article from a Milwaukee newspaper about employee engagement.
It’s not Los Angeles or New York. It’s not even Auckland, population-wise at least. There’s lot of writing about engagement from the perspective of big city corporates. There’s even a lot (not surprisingly) written about engagement in China and India. Why wouldn’t there be? So, the Milwaukee article caught my eye, as it isn’t a big city and I don’t perceive it as being an especially corporate environment. (I think Laverne and Shirley worked for a massive but it seemed pretty blue collar.) Harley-Davidson might be a big company but, again, it hardly radiates cliche corporate imagery.
A quick Wiki check tells me that its brewing fame is now historic. There’s only one left. There used to be four. That’s probably had an impact on employee engagement. According to the article, Milwaukee is pretty consistent with the rest of the working world.
“…29 percent of employees are fully engaged. Furthermore, 26 percent are considered disengaged. Disengaged employees are two and a half times more likely to leave their job for any level of pay increase than engaged employees… young employees and older groups are more engaged than middle-aged people, with engagement peaking among employees who have been at their place of employment for three to five years.”
Assuming Laverne and Shirley still had their jobs, they’d be well past peak engagement now.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.