The need to engage workers, not just pay them, is a popular topic. Just type “employee engagement” into Google and you’ll quickly come up with nearly 6 million results. Type in “how to engage workers” and you’ll get over 73 million responses. It’s obvious a lot of people are seeking answers and even more offering help. But somewhere there is a disconnect between knowing what a company must do and what they do in practice.
Why the gap? Engaging employees, especially top performers, is hard work. It requires managers to show sincere appreciation and continuous feedback to their workers. Management must create a culture of trust and hope. It’s not easy in today’s world of global competition and economic instability. But those companies that do, the rewards are high.
A recent Gallup survey revealed that in the first half of 2011, 30% of U.S. workers employed full or part time are engaged in their work and workplace; approximately half of U.S. workers are not engaged, and nearly one in five are actively disengaged. This is consistent with the Blessing White Employee Engagement Report (2011) that reported fewer than 1 in 3 employees worldwide (31%) are engaged and 17 percent are actively disengaged.
These recent surveys combined with new research confirm 3 reasons why each and every company must engage workers if that business is to remain viable.
1. Job Creation
Employees who are in engaged in their work and workplace are twice as likely to report their organization is hiring new workers as those who are actively disengaged. Workers who are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace are far more likely to report their organization is letting people go than those who are engaged. Currently, the American workforce has 1.5 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee. But averages don’t tell the whole story. Gallup management research has found the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees varies greatly across different organizations, from more than 8 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in the most highly motivated organizations to fewer than one engaged employee for every actively disengaged employee in the least motivated workforces. Job creation may partially be a result of the general economic climate, but it is also likely a function of the businesses’ own success, driven by their workplace environment, performance, and strong leadership.
Recent research, published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, found that employee engagement predicts financial performance more strongly than financial performance predicts employee engagement. Leaders can use high employee engagement to improve employee retention, customer perceptions of service, and other outcomes that will then lead to better financial performance.
Gallup research has found that how managers manage employees can significantly influence engagement and disengagement in the workplace. Their analysis suggests the most progressive organizations are those that are engaging their employees, thereby producing more and higher quality work. Workplaces that disengage employees have lower productivity and are less likely hiring and more likely laying off workers. Every manager can play a role in engaging workers by clarifying expectations, getting employees what they need to do their work, giving workers recognition when they do good work, encouraging employee development, helping workers connect to the broader purpose of the organization, and frequently measuring and discussing progress.