Tag Archives: how to engage a workforce

Poll Says More Workers are Engaged & Why

A Formula for Engaging People

One of our white papers shares the concept of CPI2, which refers to the combination of Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) and Continuous People Improvement (CPI) as an effective way of boosting both employee engagement and productivity. It is based on the premise that productivity is the key driver of employee engagement (or the employee experience), as people like to feel successful… they like to be part of a winning and productive team… and they like to feel their work is important.

More recently, the concept of CPI2 has been indirectly referenced in an article published by Gallup, which reveals that employee engagement levels reached an all-time high in 2019.

According to their research, the percentage of “engaged” workers in the U.S. reached 35% this past year. While 35% might strike you as a low number, it is actually a new high since Gallup began tracking the metric in 2000.

This increase in engagement levels is good news for all of us…

As you may know, engaged workers are highly involved in their work. They go about their work enthusiastically, they treat customers better, they make a stronger discretionary effort compared to their dis-engaged co-workers, and they are committed to both their work and workplace.

So clearly, the increase in engaged workers is good for employers.

But this increase is also good news for employees and other stakeholders! It’s good news because it shows that the more formalized plans for engaging people are working; it’s good news because it means more people are finding greater levels of fulfillment in their work. As Dr. Deming said, “Management’s overall aim should be to create a system in which everybody may take joy in his work.”

So, it’s also fair to say that this increase in engagement levels is good news because it bears witness to the fact that the process of workforce engagement can yield win-win outcomes for both employers and employees.

Why the Increase?
If you’re wondering why the number of engaged workers has risen, Gallup has a straightforward answer.

“There are several possible explanations for the changes in engagement over the past decade,” the article states. “…and Gallup has reviewed many of these previously, from changes in the economy to slight improvements in some employee benefits. But these factors are not the primary drivers of improved engagement.

“Gallup research indicates that changes in employee engagement are best attributed to changes in how organizations develop employees.“

The article also shares four themes that Gallup’s research identified in organizations with high-development cultures:

  • High-development cultures are CEO- and board-initiated.
  • High-development cultures educate managers on new ways of managing — moving from a culture of “boss” to “coach.”
  • High-development cultures practice company-wide communication.
  • High-development cultures hold managers accountable.

Room for Improvement & CPI2
However, the article also goes on to acknowledge that a 35% engagement percentage is still low.

“The percentage of engaged employees in the U.S. is still far too low,” the article states. “There is plenty of room for improvement… What would the world of work look like if organizations could double the percentage of engaged workers? This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky question — all evidence suggests it is possible. Organizations have been successful, over recent decades, in maximizing process efficiency through Six Sigma and advances in technology and automation — doubling engagement would mean U.S. organizations have matched process efficiency with people efficiency.”

In other words, CPI2.

Read the full article…

4DX & Engagement Part 5: Accountability

Our previous few posts have focused on “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” a book  by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney, and Jim Huling, and how the disciplines impact achieving goals as well as employee engagement.

These previous posts have shared perspectives on disciplines one, two and three. However, the fourth discipline ― accountability ― is the discipline that enables you to win.

Without a cadence of accountability, teams will have a much more difficult time and will tend to become less engaged. The threat, of course, is that the whirlwind of running the day-to-day business that will consume all the available time.

By ‘cadence’ the authors mean an inviolable regular schedule, commitments, and expectations.  Teams should meet every week, and it’s best to schedule the meetings at the same day and time each and every week. These meetings should never canceled ― they must be viewed as important and productive, thus promoting strong feelings of belonging, commitment, productivity, and accomplishment, which are all drivers of engagement.

At the end it is all about employee engagement; working on the right things in the right way and in a way that involves understanding and applying some paradoxical insights:

  • The fewer the goals, the more you get done.
  • Clarity of goals increases engagement, even when a vague goal seems safer.
  • Know your LAG measure, but find and act on LEAD measures to get the results you want.
  • People play differently when they are keeping score and they know if they are winning or losing; the commitment, consistency of focus, and the resulting sense of productivity are all key drivers of engagement.
  • Without a rhythm of accountability, the whirlwind will win.

Ten Things Engaged Workers Say…

Data presented by Gallup during a recent event was very compelling, and might well give organizational leadership some clear targets for better-engaging their workforce.

Based on the research shared, here are ten things that engaged workers tend to say:

  1. I’ve been recognized for my work in the past 7 days
  2. My supervisor seems to care about me
  3. Someone at work encourages my development
  4. My opinions seem to count at work
  5. In the past 6 months someone has talked about my development
  6. I know what’s expected of me at work
  7. I have the opportunity to learn at work
  8. I have the opportunity to use my strengths at work
  9. The company’s mission, values and goals make me feel that my work is important
  10. I have a best friend at work

Why Many Organizations Fail to Engage their Workforce

decisionsOur previous post provided a definition of “engagement,” and noted that a failure to properly define the concept is only one of the most common reasons why so many organizations are unable to engage employees.

Three additional reasons why organizations have traditionally had difficulty or failed in their attempts to engage their workforce include:

  1. Confusing Engagement With Satisfaction And Happiness
    It’s important to note that these two concepts are not the same; while both satisfaction and happiness have positive emotional rings to them (as does engagement), they are not the same as engagement. One can be satisfied or happy at work without
    being engaged. It’s like the difference between being satisfactory versus being excellent.

    Stephen Wendel from HelloWallet, whom we also quoted in our previous post, states, “Happiness is a current emotional state that is often related to many factors that have nothing to do with employment —the weather, family life, personality, etc.” There are happy employees who enjoy their workplace and their colleagues. They are happy to talk with anyone who passes by but happy employees may or may not be involved in doing productive work.

  2. Misunderstanding The Link Between Engagement And Productivity
    Another reason for failed engagement efforts is a lack of understanding the link between engagement and productivity.
    There is considerable research about what truly motivates people. Hands down, intrinsic motivation trumps extrinsic motivation! People are motivated primarily by an intrinsic desire to do a good job, to be considered a valuable asset to their organization and in Deming’s words, “To have joy in work.

    Deming was very clear about how to make sure that employees have “joy” in work — by enabling them with the training, tools, and resources they need to do a good job; to listen to their ideas for improvement and to continuously improve the work of everyone.

    In other words, this new paradigm is: Productivity yields engagement, not the other way around.

  3. Seeking A Quick Fix
    Engagement efforts fail because we wishfully think and hope that a few superficial suggestions and tips for increasing engagement will actually result in substantive change. There is no magic
    bullet for engagement. It requires fundamental culture change and that requires commitment and the required resources.

Read the full article…

Defining Engagement

engagement4Several prior posts have focused on the concept of enterprise engagement, and we’ve shared some of the research showing that increasing engagement is a good thing.

For example,  companies with engaged employees have 6% higher net profit margins (Towers Perrin),  and engaged companies consistently generate higher shareholder returns (Kenexa). In addition, organizations with highly-engaged workers enjoy lower turnover, higher safety ratings, fewer product defects, reduced absenteeism, greater productivity, and higher profitability with better customer satisfaction metrics.

We’ve also shared some troubling-but-true realities based on research by Gallup and others,  such as the fact that only 30% of American employees are engaged at work; and the 70% that are not engaged costs the nation $450 billion to $550 billion per year in lost productivity!

But in spite of the clear benefits,  traditional engagement efforts have failed to yield tangible results and have also failed the sustainability test.

The reasons for this lack of success are varied, and over the next few posts we’ll share some thoughts on some of the more common causes of failure to engage employees and customers.

To begin, one reason for unsuccessful engagement efforts is that people often fail to understand what engagement is and what it is not.

Defining Engagement – We Know it When We See it!
Stephen Wendel from HelloWallet offers a commonly used definition of engagement: “Engagement means having an emotional attachment to work.”

With this definition, employees emotionally care about their work and their company. He further describes employee engagement as a mental state — it’s something in our heads and hearts that represents the attachment we feel to our work.

The definition also includes an element of discretionary effort. “Engaged workers don’t work just for a paycheck or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.”

Engaged employees are willing to go “above and beyond” what is expected of them. You can call it “being all in” “or doing 110%.” Whatever we call it, we know it when we see it.

We Know What Engagement is Not
On the other hand, disengaged employees are unlikely to “go the extra mile” or even go the first mile.

They do the minimum or sometimes even less. They take more sick days, are tardy more often and sometimes even undermine the work. Many actively disengaged employees also bring about documented increases in customer dissatisfaction and complaints, and decrease morale among potentially-engaged workers.

Now that we’ve confirmed what engagement “is-and-is-not,” our next post will share some of the additional and most common causes of a failure to engage…

Communication & A Culture of Continuous Improvement

rally_the_troops_800_10095Our previous post shared fundamental steps for building a high performing culture – a culture of continuous improvement; and a key element of doing so involves engaging the workforce.

There are 4 underlying principles to build engagement:

  1. Understand the various factors that motivate people
  2. Have excellent 2-way communication
  3. Build a great workplace
  4. Work at engagement every day

These steps may seem simple, but they are not necessarily easy.  Consider that in order to understand people and develop effective two-way communication leaders must create a systematic way of interacting with team members so they can cascade information to (and from) their reports and throughout the organization.

At the core of this communication mission is the ability to plan, run and follow-through on effective meetings, which we’ll discuss in upcoming posts.


Ten Steps Toward Workforce Engagement & High Performance

engagement4In a previous post we referenced the concept of “engaging a workforce around the work,” because while employee engagement is a necessary ingredient for high performance, it is not, by itself, enough.

An effective way of going beyond engagement involves an approach that combines engagement and continuous improvement efforts, and that also involves regular measurement (see related post on linking engagement, improvement and performance).

Since people tend to link measurement with surveys, it’s worth noting that when it comes to surveys there is a marked difference between what we say and what we do.

In other words, “actions speak louder than words.”

So hands-on leadership will involve regular interaction with the team…possibly Yogi Berra summed-up this point best when saying, “You can observe a lot by just watching!”

Therefore, if you want to get some insights into how engaged your team members are, you might track and evaluate the following indicators:

  • Level of absenteeism
  • Staff turnover
  • Participation in meetings
  • Projects getting completed on time
  • Team members coming up with new ideas
  • Team hitting targets

Here’s a “top 10” list from an article published on LinkedIn by Adrian Swinscoe, author and business leader, on how to achieve employee enagement:

  1. Link to High performance–engagement does not equal employment satisfaction
  2. It Starts at the top
  3. Engage front line leaders
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  5. Individualize engagement
  6. Create a supportive, motivational culture where employees can excel
  7. Create feedback mechanisms—employees may not be motivated by money, but they are incredibly motivated by achievement
  8. Reinforce and reward the right behavior (and consequences for wrong behavior). Money is not an engagement driver, but not enough money or money not awarded fairly is a disengagement driver
  9. Track and communicate progress…
  10. Hire and promote the right traits for your culture. People are hired for aptitude, but fired for attitude