Here are five truths about employee engagement that you need to know if you’d like to create engaged teams and realize the benefits.
The first step on the road to recovery is accepting that you have a problem. Yet most companies I speak with don’t believe they have an issue. They claim that their companies are hitting the goals and that performance is in line with their average for their sector, But every year, Gallup runs an engagement survey that shows that, on average, 64 percent of employees are disengaged. Odds are, unless you’re No. 1 in your sector, nearly two-thirds of your staff are disengaged. Not only that, but 15 percent are actively disengaged. In other words, if your business was boat, for roughly every two individuals that are rowing hard towards your goals, one employee is rowing the opposite direction — and the rest are just passengers.
Imagine the benefits if everyone was rowing in the same direction.
Every year, companies are collectively spending billions on employee engagement programs. Yet every year, the figures roughly remain the same. In my opinion, it’s because these programs treat symptoms and not the actual root causes. They may have a temporary improvement, but over time their impact wanes.
Sustained improvements come through providing people with opportunities, developing their skills and providing positive feedback and recognition for their efforts. Yet I rarely see these things included with the programs.
It’s so easy to blame the lack of engagement on the employees, and given that most programs are directed at employees, it would be fair to assume that this is where most companies and HR departments feel the problem lies.
But according to Gallup, managers are the ones that have the most significant impact on engagement, accounting for around 70 percent of the variations in employee engagement scores. Let’s not forget that managers have direct impact on their teams, as most employees leave managers rather than companies.
Managers are the ones who are accountable for employee engagement. Because managers are responsible for results, increased engagement will help deliver the results. Engagement should be a manager’s primary goal because once that is achieved, everything else will follow.
The big challenge is that managers are even less engaged than employees. In a 2015 survey by Gallup, the results indicated that 65 percent of managers are disengaged. The reality is that you can’t light a fire with a damp match, and disengaged managers are never going to create engaged employees. Companies would do far better if their programs focused on creating engaged leaders and managers, as this will then help develop a culture of engagement.
If leaders don’t care, then why should their teams?
Your problems don’t end just because you have an engaged team. Your teams need to be empowered as well as engaged. When groups are engaged, they desire to achieve the results and goals that have been set for them. But when they are empowered, they have the resources and the tools necessary to achieve the results. This allows them to have the belief that they can be successful, and will help build unstoppable momentum.
Engagement without empowerment is like having a powerful engine that’s not connected to the wheels. The desire is there, but the capability is missing. This will lead to frustration, demotivation and ultimately, disengagement.
Only when you accept, understand and address these truths will you be able to create programs that focus on developing your managers, management engagement and creating empowered teams — all of which will help you create a high-performance culture that delivers sustainable success.
This article first appeared on Entrepreneur on May 2nd, 2021.