Lies, Damned Lies & Employee Engagement Statistics


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.

About Terry Williams - The Brain-Based Boss

I'm all about engaging people and helping you engage yours to influence behaviour to improve results - at work and at home. Maybe you're a manager, a salesperson, a leader, a parent, a presenter or an event organiser? You need to grab your people's attention, create some rapport, be memorable and influence behaviour change. How can we do that? I'm originally a trainer by trade, turned manager, turned comedian and partway back again. Author of 'THE GUIDE: How to kiss, get a job & other stuff you need to know', I write and speak about how to engage people, be they employees, family or yourself. How can we connect with people’s own internal motivations and help them use their own inner passions to drive towards productivity, success and happiness? And hopefully have a few laughs along the way... As a trainer facilitating learning and development in others, I find myself drawing on my own extensive business experience. I specialise in the delivery of high impact, customised training solutions for organisations that are serious about improving the performance and lives of their people.

Posted on March 3, 2014, in Employee Engagement and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I am lucky guy to find-out your article . Really you nicely say about engagement and disengagement issue. “Employee engagement is about connecting to people’s minds not their muscles or digestive systems.” – what a great sentence !!!! I am impressed and bookmark it’s for in future. Learn lot’s of and thank you for sharing.

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