The Leader’s Primary Job: Engaged Employees

ConversationThe Gallup organization recently released it’s updated “State of the American Workplace” report.

The good news: there are engaged workers in American workplaces, and they contribute passion, skills, and energy to help their organizations thrive.

The bad news? The percentage of engaged employees – 30% – has remained steady for 12 years.

The not so good news: Gallup found that 52% of workers are not engaged. These workers just go through the motions at work.

The worst news: the 18% of workers who are actively disengaged cost US businesses at least $450,000,000,000 (that’s $450 billion) in lost productivity each year. Actively disengaged workers are more likely to steal from their companies, frustrate co-workers, and drive customers away.

Gallup’s research proves that engaged workers have significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than disengaged workers.

Gallup’s 2010 State of the Global Workplace report found even worse percentages than these US figures. Globally, not engaged and actively disengaged workers outnumber engaged workers by 8:1.

Every organization on the planet would love to have more engaged workers! The vital question is:

“Why aren’t there more engaged workers in our organizations?”

The responsibility rests in the hands of leaders, from senior executives to directors to middle managers to supervisors to team leads.

Leaders must make employee engagement as important as productivity. They must set clear engagement standards, measure and monitor engagement, and hold themselves and other leaders accountable for boosting worker engagement.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, most organizational leaders have never been required to boost employee engagement. They don’t have the experience or skills to do so effectively, today.

Managing employee engagement means that senior leaders have to be consistent role models of their organization’s values. They have to be present daily, observing how teams operate, and observing how leaders and managers treat employees. They have to keep informal communications channels open so they can learn about stupid policies (and fix them), about bad leader or employee behavior (and address it), etc.

These skills can be taught. I’ve coached hundreds of leaders on our proven culture refinement process.

One client came to us because of low employee engagement survey scores. They scored 32/100, the worst of the eight business units owned by their corporate parent. This plant’s senior leadership team embraced our culture process fully and promptly.

They defined values with observable behaviors so everyone – leaders and employees – understood what the rules were for effective daily interactions. They increased performance accountability across their production lines. They measured how well leaders lived the organization’s new valued behaviors. They praised leaders who modeled their values, coached leaders who struggled, and redirected leaders who didn’t model or manage to the new values.

When the next employee engagement survey came around twelve months later, their plant scored 62/100! This was the biggest gain in engagement scores than any other business unit in their company system.

Our culture refinement process is proven to boost employee engagement scores. What are you waiting for?

How engaged are workers in your organization? Are actively disengaged workers dealt with or tolerated?

Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

Photo © istockphoto.com/shironosov. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


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