Think about the last time you had a great day at work. What made it great? I like to think that when you have a great day at work, then you’ve had an engaged day at work. Studies and surveys show, however, that in the U.S., employee engagement is low; with only about 2 in 3 employees being engaged at work. That means that one-third of us (gulp!) are either not engaged or are actively disengaged. Far too few workers in the U.S. are having predominantly great days at work.
BlessingWhite (a Division of GP Strategies) views that an engaged organization is one where employees reach maximum job satisfaction while at the same time make a significant contribution to the goals of their team and the organization as a whole. True engagement happens when there is a mutually beneficial relationship between the organization and the employee, an alignment between what the organization needs (maximum contribution) and what their employees want (maximum satisfaction).
So, what does high employee engagement look like?
Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. It is a deep sense of ownership for the organization and strong feelings of involvement, commitment, and absorption in one’s work…which is motivating. It involves a strong contribution of discretionary energy, which translates into productivity…and results in improved personal and business performance.
Engagement drivers for employees include:
- Senior leaders that create a high-performing work environment
- Strategic alignment
- Opportunities to improve skills and capabilities
- A good relationship with their supervisor
- Senior management that is interested in employee well-being
- An organization’s reputation for social responsibility
- Perception of fair pay
- Career advancement opportunities
- An environment that encourages innovative thinking
On the other hand, employees who are not engaged are essentially "checked out." They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time – but not energy or passion – into their work.
Even worse, actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.
Signs or symptoms of low employee engagement include:
- Job / role confusion
- Low initiative; lack of willingness to "go the extra mile"
- Confusion regarding organizational mission, objectives
- Lots of activity but minimal results, contribution
- Job stagnation (whether real or perceived)
- Poor relationships at work
- Distrust of management
- Negative (toxic?) attitude – behaviors, complaining
- Acting unprofessional with vendors, customers, co-workers
- Looking for employment opportunities elsewhere
When it comes to employee engagement, leaders need to focus on their daily actions – how they "show up," inspire, communicate, and connect with the workforce. They need to, for example:
- Ensure that there exists a clear vision and strategic direction, which employees understand and buy-in to;
- Set great examples by "living" the core values of the company, recognizing and rewarding attitudes and behaviors that are consistent with the core values, and addressing those that aren’t;
- Understand employees’ values, passions, skills, personal goals and career aspirations; and
- Help every, single employee make the connection between what is important to them personally and how they can best contribute to the goals of the company.
Employee engagement isn’t some fuzzy, feel-good concept that only HR professionals need to focus on. Leaders need to embrace the importance of high employee engagement and understand its connection to business performance, otherwise the long-term sustainability of the organization could be severely impacted. But it’s not just up to the leaders…we all have a role in helping one another have a lot more great days at work!