Terry delivered results. He knew how to get things done, and the senior leadership rewarded him. He rose quickly in the sales organization; from district manager to regional sales manager to senior vice president. As the senior VP, Terry was not afraid to shake things up in the complacent, bureaucratic company known for quality, but sorely lacking in innovation.
Within three years, most of the top salespeople and sales managers left. Market share dropped rapidly and Terry was fired. Terry’s over-bearing style had enraged, not engaged, his employees. How well do you engage your employees?
Employee engagement is defined as the connection employees have to their jobs, careers, and organizations that leads to value-added effort. When engagement is high, employees go the extra mile to get the job done. Without this connection, leaders like Terry may get employees to comply, but they won’t ignite the fuel of commitment needed to drive the engine of growth. Leaders who push for results without engagement are driving with one foot on the break.
Despite the importance of engagement, the Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study of 90,000 employees found that only 21% are fully engaged in their work, 41% are enrolled (they occasionally go the extra mile), 30% are disenchanted (they rarely go the extra mile), and 8% are fully disengaged (1).
This means that on any given day, an astounding 71 per cent of employees worldwide fall into the muddled middle of engagement. This is the “engagement gap” - the distance between what employees actually contribute and what they are capable of contributing. Terry's team and many of his top salespeople disengaged soon after his arrival and it eventually cost him and the organization dearly.
According to the Gallup organization, the cost of lost productivity due to disengagement is $300 billion in the United States, $226.5 billion in Germany, and $6 billion in Singapore. (2) The U.S. economy is estimated to run at only about 30 percent efficiency because of a low engagement (3). Imagine walking into your organization and telling 70% of your employees to go home! That's effectively what leaders do when they don't engage their employees on a routine basis.
The Corporate Leadership Council surveyed 50,000 employees at 59 global organizations and reviewed more than 300 drivers of engagement across the globe. The good news is that they found that increasing an employee’s level of engagement improves performance 20 percent and reduces the probability of departure by 87 percent. (4)
Here are several tips science says will help you increase engagement, performance, and retention:
- Ask each employee how they feel about their work.
- Help team members do their best every day.
- Demonstrate that you care about what is important to them by involving them in decision-making whenever possible.
- Create meaningful work by frequently delegating tasks that help employees grow in a mutually beneficial way.
- Discuss organizational goals on a regular basis.
- Find ways to remind employees that what they do on a daily basis influences the long-term organizational strategy.
- Demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity in your hiring and promotion practices and by encouraging diverse opinions in daily discussions.
These are several tactics to engage employees. How do you engage your team? As you adapt these to fit your style and culture, you’ll also eXpand your empowering leadership style – one of the four key styles research reveals is critical to leadership success.
2. Rodd Wagner and James Harter; The Heart of Great Managing, ‘Gallup Management Journal’, June 12, 2008.
3. Bates, S. Getting Engaged. ‘HR Magazine’, Vol 49, No. 2, 2004.