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Business Observer Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 8 years ago

Are your employees engaged?

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Research shows that seven out of 10 employees are not fully engaged in their workplace. How to get them back on track and working toward their full potential.
by: Denise Federer Bottom-line Behavior

Are there tenured employees in your business who are no longer effective in their roles? They might even have become toxic in their negative attitude, but you are reluctant to let them go because of their long history with the company.

Or perhaps you have you made a personal investment of your time and/or resources in people in your firm, only to be shocked that they resigned their position? You noticed a change in their level of enthusiasm or they recently appeared less responsive than usual, but you underestimated the importance of these behavioral cues. In both of these examples management misreading the signs of an employee's level of engagement can have far reaching negative implications for the overall success of your organization.

Employee engagement has been defined as “the extent to which employees commit to something or someone in their organization, how hard they work and how long they stay as a result of that commitment.” There are three types of employees that have been identified in the management research on this topic: engaged employees, not-engaged employees and disengaged employees.

Engaged employees can drive company initiatives and move the organization forward, while not-engaged employees are just doing the minimal work they think is necessary to keep their job. Actively disengaged employees can be divisive to the work environment because of their negative attitude.

A recent study by Dale Carnegie and Associates revealed that seven out of 10 employees are not fully engaged in the workplace. Just less than half will minimally do what is expected of them, but they feel undervalued and do not put forth any extra effort. Furthermore, an employee's understanding of how vital his or her job is to the company's success is the most important factor in employee engagement.

In light of these results, it is apparent that creating a culture that proactively promotes employee engagement could be critical to the sustainability of your company. The good news is that as the owner or senior leader of a company you have the power to cultivate this type of a work environment.

Three keys to engagement: Confirm, Assess and Communicate
•Confirm: The first step in creating an engaged work culture is confirming that your company mission statement is germane to your current business goals. It should provide a guideline for the behavioral style, work ethic and priorities that you desire in your employees.
• Assess: You need to assess your employees and determine the factors in your current work environment that influence employee engagement. Ask yourself what changes you can make to motivate and reenergize those employees who have a past history of being productive members of your team but are no longer engaged. Next you need to ensure that your culture encourages these valued individuals to thrive and achieve their own professional goals.
• Communicate: To maximize employee engagement, it is essential that you have frequent, transparent communication with members of your team. There are three key behavioral principles to ensure productive conversations: make no assumptions, manage expectations and break down complex behavior.
· Make no assumptions — It is important that you not assume you know the level of an individual's engagement, but rather have both formal and informal conversations with them to determine the alignment between the personal values and goals of the employee and the company's mission and standards. Discussion topics could include their work satisfaction in their current roles, personal ambitions for their career paths and potential opportunities in your company.
· Manage expectations — Most individuals need the following three conditions to ensure a trusting relationship: predictability, consistency and accountability. Employees need to understand management's expectations of their behavior, be able to count on consistent responses from senior leadership and be able to anticipate the consequences of their actions. Additionally, it is important to clarify an employee's expectations concerning raises and promotions. Differences in perception on these key issues can negatively impact their commitment and job satisfaction.
· Break down complex behavior — A key principle to keep in mind when communicating your behavioral expectations to employees is to be as specific as possible and break down general concepts into smaller, observable behaviors. You know what you mean when you identify “giving excellent client service” as an essential company value. Unfortunately, everyone has a different interpretation of what a great client experience may look like. You must describe the exact behaviors you are looking for, such as: returning all client calls within a prescribed time period; doing what it takes to find a client solution; and following-up with a client within a week to confirm that their needs have been fully met.

Clearly the investment of time and resources to foster employee engagement in your work environment is essential. Individuals who are aligned with your company mission and values can become ambassadors for your business in the community and positively influence both your company's reputation and its bottom line.

Denise P. Federer, Ph.D. is founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group. She has 27 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. Contact her at: [email protected]

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