A recent Gallup poll (see below) found that only 30% of our US workforce is engaged in our jobs… which means 70% of our workforce is not. Does that mean that most of your employees are dragging themselves to work each day, chatting on Facebook, posting selfies on Instagram, putting in the minimum amount of effort to keep you satisfied, and looking for another job right now? And what are the 30% doing? Are they giving 100% on every project and customer, looking for ways to work smarter, helping mentor other employees, promoting a positive image for your organization, and adding value each day? And how do you flip the numbers so that your engaged workers are in the 70%?
From both my personal and my HR experience, I can tell you it does not cost you a dime to flip the numbers. It takes awareness, commitment, and a realization that it’s worth it. And it takes effort. As Americans, we gravitate to easy and quick. This is not easy nor quick, but it’s worth it. Engaged workers will give you 100%, they will look for better ways (i.e. more efficient, more profitable ways), they will support less experienced workers, they will talk about their job and company favorably, and they will add an immeasurable benefit for you. This won’t happen overnight, but if you commit, it will happen over time.
First, ask your team for honest, direct feedback about their job and the workplace. Not what they think you want to hear, but what they perceive – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be sure to listen carefully as this information is invaluable. Separate what you learn into three groups: 1) Good stuff you want to keep doing, 2) Bad stuff that adds zero value and actually hurts, and 3) Ugly stuff that is creating financial and/or legal risks. Create a plan to reinforce good, change the bad, and eliminate the ugly. From a liability standpoint, start with the ugly NOW!
Next, show your team that you value and trust them by being as transparent as possible with information, ask for their opinions as the diversity of thought creates more robust plans and better buy-in, listen to concerns, and delegate meaningful work. Don’t micromanage! That wastes your time, annoys your team, and undermines your leadership value. Just clearly provide the parameters and the desired outcomes.
Lastly, create ongoing continuous learning opportunities. Few people like to be stagnant and that never helps your organization, anyway. Furthermore, younger generations expect to learn, do, and tackle new tasks, skills,and challenges. You do not have to promote everyone constantly, but you can expand job tasks as your team members grows. You can identify subject matter experts (SMEs) to help develop and educate fellow team members. For example, an Excel expert can lead a small in-house training program. While everyone else is strengthening their Excel skills, your SME is developing his or her presentation and leadership skills. Or you can just ask staff members to provide an informal talk at the next staff meeting about new data or developments. The idea here is continuous learning, tapping inside experts, and building confidence and more skills.
In summary, increasing engagement in your organization does not need to be elusive nor does not have to be complicated or painful. Ironically, by not addressing engagement, you will experience the very things you want to avoid: elusiveness, complication, and pain.