(Originally Published in Premium Performance)
By Dave Newton
Human Performance Specialist
How many of your employees are engaged?
No, this article didn’t get misplaced from the spring issue of Blushing Brides magazine. This is a whole different type of engagement. Employee engagement refers to how committed employees are to the success of the organization. It’s a slight but significant refinement of employee satisfaction.
How is it different?
The thinking behind measuring engagement is that just because an employee is satisfied it doesn’t mean that they are working hard or doing a good job.
An employee may be satisfied because they make a decent salary, have good benefits, have a nice boss, and have a schedule that fits their needs. They may also do a mediocre job, not poor enough to get disciplined or fired, but not providing great guest service or outstanding quality.
In fact, their satisfaction may be higher because they don’t have too work hard. So a few years back the Gallup organization introduced the concept of engagement.
For Gallup, engagement is a way of measuring how the employee feels about working for the organization, how strongly the employee identifies with the company and its goals, and how much the employees accepts and lives by the values of the organization. In short, does the employee act like an owner or a hired pair of hands?
Gallup sees employees falling into one of three different categories: engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged.
Gallup defines engaged employees as people working with passion and feeling a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.
Employees who are not engaged, according to Gallup, are essentially “checked-out” and sleepwalking through their workday, putting time – but not energy or passion – into their work.
Actively disengaged employees are not just unhappy at work, they are busy acting out their unhappiness and undermining what the engaged workers accomplish.
Gallup’s research has shown that only about 27% of employees in America are engaged while 59% are unengaged and 14% are actively disengaged. It estimates that the annual cost to America’s economy of the 22 million actively disengaged workers is $300 billion.
How do you know how many of your employees are engaged?
Engagement is measured by doing an employee survey (similar to an employee satisfaction survey), but asking questions related to engagement.
There are two types of questions that can be used to measure engagement. Questions can be asked about:
- How the employee feels about the organization.
- The employee’s perceptions of behaviors within the organization that demonstrate engagement.
Examples of questions that could be asked about how an employee feels about the organization:
- I feel like an owner of the company.
- I am proud to work for _____.
- I would recommend ____ as a great place to work.
These are examples of answers that demonstrate positive employees’ perceptions of behaviors within the organization:
- I often “go the extra mile” to provide excellent service to our customers.
- Employees in my department are committed to doing high quality work.
- Managers and employees in my department work together to improve customer service.
What Gets Employees Engaged?
Questions like the ones above can help leadership measure current levels of employee engagement, but the bigger question is how to increase employee engagement.
The main driver of employee engagement is quite simple: Does the employee feel valued and involved at work.
Specifically some of the key ways that management can engage its employees are:
- Communicating clear performance expectations and providing honest and timely feedback on performance.
- Listening and responding to employee concerns.
- Providing employees with learning opportunities that help them realize their potential. These don’t have to be formal training courses; they can be “learning on the job” – finding ways to overcome challenges and perform at higher levels on regular daily responsibilities.
- Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses. There is a positive energy toward improvement and engagement that is created when managers help employees develop their strengths while supporting them in areas in which they are weak.
- Caring about employees’ overall well-being.
So in addition to measuring the current levels of employee engagement, it makes sense to measure employees’ perceptions in these five areas, so that the current status of organizational practices can be known and tracked over time.
The potential financial impact of greater employee engagement is huge because it combines the savings from lower employee turnover with the increased revenue from greater customer satisfaction (from receiving better service).