Who Is Accountable for Employee Engagement?

images-21I was reading an article yesterday which I found startling,  the article was on the level of employee engagement in the US, which included a survey that had been run by Gallup.

I found the information so startling that I also checked and found that these figures are entirely consistent with other employee engagement surveys, which makes for very gloomy reading indeed.

Gallup’s data shows 30% of employees are Engaged, 52% are Disengaged, and a further 18% Actively Disengaged.

That’s a staggering 70% of people who are disengaged or actively disengaged and we know that when employees are disengaged this can have an impact on productivity.

“Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away.”

These numbers, to me are just mind boggling.

Circa $500b lost each year through productivity in the US alone. I also looked at the stats for other countries, and the picture was pretty similar.

I was discussing these figures with a former colleague – a manager I’d worked with previously – and they said “yes, this is a problem but it’s tough to find engaged people”.

It was then that I realised that maybe some leaders and managers believe that the problem lies with the employees, or with the current economic situation.

It’s true that the global economic crisis might have some impact, but as I have written about in many articles, Leadership defines culture, and if the staff are disengaged then this is primarily the fault of the leader, not really the staff.

This is backed up by research from Dale Carnegie Institute which shows that the top three contributors to employee engagement are:

  • 80% relationship with manager
  • 70% belief in senior leadership
  • 54% pride in working for the company

So it’s clear that employee engagement is the responsibility of the leader.

When I mentioned this to my former colleague, he said “I don’t agree, tell me one thing I could do to increase employee engagement?”.

I said “how about be more engaging!”

Now whilst that might sound a little bit trite, it is actually something that leaders could try and do.

Engage with your staff more, be open and available to them, make them feel that you are part of the team and that they are working with you, not for you.

Provide a clear vision and direction, and communicate this clearly and often to the team, give feedback, and provide reward and recognition for a job well done, this doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be a little as a bottle of wine or even chocolates. 

If the economic crisis is an issue, give people your view on the future of the company, and try and provide assurances if possible.

I have worked in many companies where employee engagement was low, but we managed to turn this around significantly by taking some of these simple approaches.

You also need to identify those people who are actively disengaged and see what you can do to turn them around and get them to be a positive influence and have a positive contribution to the bottom line.

However, if there is nothing that you can do to turn them around and they choose to remain disengaged, then the best thing to do is to part company with them. Actively disengaged employees not only have an impact on the bottom line themselves, but they also encourage others to at least become disengaged.

These actively disengaged employees can be the one or two bad apples that can spoil the whole barrel.

In my career I am happy to say that by looking to be engaging and taking the actions listed above I have managed to turn around 99.9% of the disengaged and actively disengaged, and have only had to separate with 3 people who just refused to come to the party.

Separation should absolutely be the last step we take, but we should not shy away from it if we cannot get people engaged, although as I mention 99.9% of people usually respond.

When we get people engaged, then we can create inspired teams and with inspired teams we can move mountains and achieve significant results!

If you have a disengaged team and you are looking for support and guidance on how to get them to become engaged, then please email me at gordon@leadership-principles.com and I will be more than happy to help.

Gordon Tredgold

#Leadership Principles