Credits: What follows is an article that was written by a friend of mine who also happens to be an amazing executive coach with deep expertise in strategy, employee engagement, and energy leadership. His name is Joel Head, and if you want to follow his work, his website is http://www.headwindsltd.com/. If you have any inkling that your career could hit a new tragectory but aren’t sure how to switch gears, you need to talk to Joel. Enjoy this awesome article about workforce engagement.
Oh What a Feeling!
The Gallup organization and Blessing White, among others who measure employee engagement, estimate that fewer than 20% of employees in the U.S. are fully engaged. The remaining 80% are in varying stages of disengaged, from slight disengaged to highly disengaged. The highly disengaged – about 15% of the workforce — are not only disgruntled; they are actively trying to bring harm to their company in some way. The cost of low engagement, Gallup estimates, is a whopping $387 billion in the U.S. alone. The loss represents lower productivity, increased turnover and absenteeism, and increases in quality defects and rework. If your car’s performance mirrored the statistics on employee engagement, it would run well 20% of the time, it would operate sporadically 65% of the time, and 15% of the time it wouldn’t run at all.
Employee engagement is a state of mind – a positive feeling toward the employer, your immediate supervisor, your co-workers and the work you do. Have you ever found yourself so engrossed in something that you lost all track of time? That is what engagement feels like. Scientist and author Csikszentmihalyihad a word for this emotion; he called it “flow”. Flow, he wrote means that you are involved in activities so closely related to your identity that they hardly seem like work. Many business leaders make the mistake of equating employee engagement with satisfaction but it is not the same thing. I could have a job where few demands were placed on me, my co-workers were nice, my schedule was flexible and I got paid a lot of money. That situation might make me feel satisfied, but it wouldn’t likely keep me engaged.
Employee engagement is really a form of psychic or mental energy. When we are engrossed in work that we find meaningful and challenging, it becomes a reward in itself and drives our willingness to put forth the effort required to do great work. A functional magnetic resonance image, or fMRI, scan of your brain during these intense periods, would actually show that your metabolism has caused increased activity in the neurons in your brain. When our mental energy increases, our metabolism works faster and actually speeds up our neural activity. An engaged employee, according to research conducted by Valtera and others, exhibits increased psychic energy which results in greater focus, clarity, persistence and pro-activity.
Employee engagement ultimately is a fixable problem. What’s needed is an environment that supports clarity and transparency, encourages employee autonomy in decision-making and taking needed action, a coaching mentality and a willingness to provide employees with the resources to do their jobs well. The payoff can be worthwhile. In a study by Towers Perrin, companies with high levels of employee engagement engaged a 19% increase in operating profit and a 28% increase in shareholder value over a 12 month period. Over the same period, low engagement firms experienced losses in both areas. You do the math.