Thursday, April 30, 2009

Employee Engagement

Towers Perrin recently released the results of its global survey of employee engagement. "Just 21% of the close to 90,000 respondents worldwide are engaged in their work, meaning they’re willing to go the extra mile to help their companies succeed." The rest are at various levels of disengagement.

"What’s perhaps more troubling, 38% are partly to fully disengaged. The result is an 'engagement gap' between the discretionary effort companies need and people actually want to invest, and companies’ effectiveness in channeling this effort to
enhance performance. The study also found that companies with the highest levels of employee
engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in retaining their most valued employees than companies with lower levels of engagement."

Startling results like this beg the question: what can organizations do to improve employee engagement and discretionary effort? It is critical that companies pursue full engagement as anything less than full engagement represents enormous waste. If your greatest business expense is benefits, salaries, and wages, wouldn't you want to maximize your investment and be sure you were receiving maximum effort? It is always startling that the efficiency, Six Sigma, and LEAN experts seem to miss this one. The greatest waste in your company occurs anytime a staff member gives anything less than maximum effort.

So what can be done? Many things, but according to the study, we can start by:

1. Creating a hiring model that ensures the selection of those who will produce maximum effort.

2. Building a cohesive, clear, and effective senior leadership team that will set the tone in the organization. The Towers Perrin study shows we have a long way to go in this area.

3. Recognizing the positive, even simple, ordinary greatness that is in your company. Everyday there are heroes who are solving customer problems and representing you well -- find these heroes and thank them.

4. Holding leaders accountable to hiring, spotting, developing, and retaining those who bring their passion with them to work every day. Until people see that this matters to the boss, change is unlikely to come.

What has worked for you? How have you improved employee engagement and discretionary effort? What do you see that is in the way?

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