So we’re all agreed: Engaged employees are the key to every organization’s success. But engaging today’s employees is no easy task.
Need proof? The numbers from a survey released last July tell the ugly story.
According to HR consulting giant Towers Watson’s Global Workforce study, 63% of U.S. employees said they weren’t engaged in their jobs.
Overall, the study showed that only 37% of U.S. workers were highly engaged.
Just over one-quarter (27%) were classified as unsupported, meaning they display traditional engagement, but lacked the enablement and/or energy required for sustainable engagement.
Thirteen percent are detached, meaning they feel enabled and/or energized, but weren’t willing to go the extra mile.
And almost one-quarter (23%) were completely disengaged.
Employment attorney Jathan Janove, speaking at the recent LEAP conference in Las Vegas, put employees into two buckets:
“Transactional” employees say: “I put in my time; in exchange I get a paycheck.”
“Engaged” employees, on the other hand, look beyond a paycheck, have a strong sense of belonging, and ask, “What are we trying to accomplish and how can I help?”
How can you tell ’em apart?
Janove offered some subsets of the two worker types:
- The turf protector says it’s not his or her job, but the shoe-stepper puts himself in others’ shoes.
- The naysayer says “this won’t work,” but the sunshine-maker always smiles and finds ways to contribute.
- The sleepwalker just staggers through the workday and is mentally checked out, but the energizer finds ways to connect with his environment.
- The finger-pointer always has an excuse why it’s not his fault, but the office sanitizer thinks well of people and does his/her best to squelch malicious gossip.
- The opportunist looks for chances to get away with stuff, while the problem-solver says: “I can fix this.”
- The micromanager says “I’m the boss and you obey,” while the developer asks how he/she can help people grow.
- The smorgasbord-selector goes along only with the things he/she likes, while the peacemaker looks for solutions everyone can accept.
So how do you move employees from transactional to engaged? It all starts with your managers, Janove said.
First, managers need to understand what their workers regard as important. Here’s a general list of what the experts identify as keys to employee satisfaction:
- interesting, challenging work
- opportunities for advancement and learning
- collegial workforce
- fair compensation
- a respected manager
- recognition for accomplishment
- feeling a valued member of a team
- a substantial benefits package
- the feeling their work “makes a difference,” and
- overall pride in the company’s mission and its products or services.
5 key tips for managers
Here’s Janove’s advice for managers trying to enhance engagement levels:
Step 1: Tell them why
Contrary to a popular misconception, most employees don’t question authority; they just want to know why something needs to be done instead of just being told to do it.
Step 2: Ask more questions
Managers would do well not to lead with their mouths, but with their E-A-Rs: Explore, Acknowledge and Respond. Ideally, they should ask just as many questions of their workers as they make statements.
Step 3: From command to collaboration
In a command-and-control system, the boss gives an order and expects to be obeyed. A middle step is delegation, by which the boss won’t use his veto power if he can live with what employees have proposed or done.
But the ultimate step is collaboration, in which the boss first consults with employees, then gives credit to good suggestions and acknowledges all input.
Step 4: Show some humility
Collaboration and humility create opportunities for reaching people and not making difficult conversations adversarial.
Even when people must be let go, respect their dignity. People who felt they were not treated with dignity in terminations are 35 times more likely to sue.
Step 5: From cop to coach
The journey from compliance cop to compliance coach is in your managers’ best interest. They just may discover that instead of having a bad employee, they actually had a good employee who was being badly managed.
For change to stick, managers must see a clear path, feel motivated by the expected rewards and see a supportive environment.