Tag Archives: productivity and engagement

The Pathway to Engagement

The path leading to a culture of engagement is linked with productivity, performance and job satisfaction. It follows a clear objective of engaging people around the one thing they all have in common—and the one thing that can bring about increased profitability and a sustainable competitive edge—the work.

As we all know, traditional employee engagement efforts have primarily failed to yield tangible results. They have also failed the sustainability test. As is the case with any improvement or change initiative, an ad-hoc approach involving little or no planning or structure, and lacking defined, measurable objectives, is prone to failure. This approach might be called “engagement for engagement’s sake.”

In contrast, a more focused approach of improving both the work and the workplace in a measurable way can result in high-levels of productivity, profitability and engagement!

As explained by Robin Gee, Coca-Cola’s Director of Employee Engagement, “We engage employees in aggressive efforts to eliminate waste and reinvest those savings in ways that are visible and meaningful to the employees.”

This perspective differs from traditional attempts at employee engagement in two critically-important ways:

  • A strong focus on productivity and continuous improvement as catalysts to engagement
  • A strong focus on measurement and return on investment

Of course this perspective is not necessarily new. For example, in 2012 ISO 10018 was introduced, which provides guidance on engaging people in an organization’s quality management system, and on enhancing their involvement and competence within it. The standard is applicable to any organization, regardless of size, type, or activity.

You might also note that ISO 10018 standards provide considerable leeway on how an organization specifically goes about its attainment. The emphasis placed on each requirement depends on an organization’s specific brand, culture, people, situation and goals. If you’d like to determine how close your organization is to achieving ISO 10018 certification, Engagement Strategies Media has created a chart that outlines the pathway. You can access the chart here.

Productivity & Workforce Engagement

While employee engagement has emerged as a key objective in today’s business world, a surprising number of organizations have no formalized engagement strategy.

Or they fall prey to the misconception that “happy employees are more productive employees,” which has been disproved time-and-time-again. As it turns out, dress-down Fridays, free pizza or flex-time programs might create some short-term buzz, but the excitement doesn’t last; and the impact is neither greater productivity nor higher engagement levels.

In fact, the opposite is the reality — that is,
“productive employees tend to be engaged
employees,” not the other way around.

Consider that people like to feel successful… they
like to be part of a winning team… a productive
team. You might also consider three important
and corroborating data points that were
published on Forbes.com:

  • A happy worker is not always a productive worker, and job satisfaction yields membership but not always productivity.
  • People differ in what they value and in what motivates them.
  • While it is typically better to have higher, rather than lower, engagement scores, engagement alone is not enough. In order to improve organizational performance, engagement, motivation, and performance must be addressed… and must be used to make data-based changes that will drive employee retention, performance, and commitment… not “just” engagement.

Driving productivity as a means of achieving and maintaining high-levels of workforce engagement enables an organization to more easily promote and reward desired behaviors, measure and document progress, and ultimately realize tangible results.

Equally as important, the measured return on investment enables leadership to further invest in the workforce as well as the workplace, thus promoting a culture of continuous
improvement and engagement throughout.

Work Matters!

A blog post by Dr. Dr. Alison Eyring, the founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions, a global consultancy specializing in organizational design, references the the degree to which so many world-renowned journalists are commitment to their work.

“Their work has meaning,” she writes. “It is important. It matters. They matter.”

Eyring goes on to discuss engagement, and how it can mean many things to many people.  But overall, “it has to do with the degree to which people are willing to expend discretionary effort… to do great work, to stay in the company and to contribute to the community of employees around them.”

Yet despite the millions of dollars spent on various activities attempting to “engage” employees, many employers find the majority of their employees are disengaged (70% based on recent Gallup polls).

Eyring also states that “work motivates and satisfies us when it has meaning, offers autonomy, and leverages a variety of skills. If we want high levels of engagement, we have to go beyond leader behavior or employee characteristics and look to the way we structure work.”

This perspective is well-aligned with our Engagement Around the Work” white paper.

The simple truth is that people prefer to work in an environment where their work is important — where their work matters; and in an environment in which they can be productive.

In the end, working on things that matter to us and working productively are the key drivers of sustainable engagement.

Leadership, Engagement & Continuous Improvement

Leadership is getting people to want to do what needs to be done, and it provides the energy for change as well as the commitment to sustain it.

This aspect of leadership is critically-important if an organization hopes build and sustain culture of continuous improvement in which employees are truly engaged, and in which measurable improvement goals are achieved through people.

In a recent article published by Engagement Strategies Media, the connection between leadership and engagement was discussed.

“They’re connected because we can’t create the levels of engagement we would want and get all of the benefits we know can come from that without people leading…. we have to have someone leading us in the direction of this desirable goal of higher levels of engagement. They’re completely one hundred percent connected.”

The article goes on to explain that improving engagement scores requires intentional effort, and “most leaders, most organizations, aren’t placing a high enough priority on it to make that intentional.”

Thus a formalized, goal-oriented plan is a must… a concept that is presented in our “Engagement Around the Work” white paper.

Consider that people are much more likely to become engaged when they feel productive… when they feel like they are achieving success and that they are an important part of the organization’s success; when they feel that they have a voice in creating a better, more productive workplace.

By following proven Continuous Improvement methodology leaders and people at all levels can achieve measurable goals and higher levels of productivity; and this productivity leads to engagement.

Once leaders recognize that productivity leads to engagement, not the other way around, it becomes easier to allocate the necessary resources to sustain the Continuous Improvement effort. This means we must create a culture that is based on improving all that we do and which enables and empowers every employee at every level to make improvements through involvement and commitment — through being engaged!

More Hidden Costs of Disengaged Workers

hiddencostsIn an earlier post we discussed the direct and “hidden” costs of disengaged workers.

Carrying-on with this theme, a recent discussion among a group of Continuous Improvement leaders included some additional perspectives on the real-but-often-hidden costs associated with disengaged workers:

  • Higher turnover: Disengaged employees leave their employer as soon as they see a better opportunity. The turnover increases the costs of recruiting, on-boarding, and training.
  • Greater risk: Every newly-hired person comes with the risk of being a bad fit, or worse!  Every employee leaving an organization takes with him some organizational knowledge that might have been helpful to future decisions.
  • Lower productivity: A disengaged employee does not go the extra mile or challenge the status-quo.
  • Little or no process improvement: Improvements require engagement, a willingness to design and conduct experiments, a willingness to try something new and potentially better.  Disengaged employees focused on their personal agendas see little upside in risking trying something new in an effort to forward the organization’s goals.
  •  Higher pay: When we say about someone, “They are only in it for the money,” we are observing disengagement.  While money is important to nearly everyone, if that is the only motivation, there is no genuine engagement.  Organizations that are unable to create an environment that intrinsically engages their employees must pay them more to keep and motivate them.

Possibly you have some ideas we might add to the list?

Update on Engagement & Work

engagementproductivity2We have found that engagement and productivity are inextricably linked, but not in the way people tend to think!

As presented in our “Engagement Around the Work” white paper, people are much more likely to become engaged when they are productive… when they feel like they are achieving success, that they are part of the organization’s success, and that they are learning.

As it turns out, productivity leads to engagement, not the other way around; and this is a fundamental principle that clearly explains why so many organizations have had so much trouble engaging employees over the years – leaders were unaware of the things their employees really valued.

The dress-down Fridays, healthy snacks, and free lunches were nice, but they didn’t motivate people and they didn’t result in higher levels of engagement or productivity.

Only recently has it become clear to forward-thinking business leaders that the path to sustainable employee engagement is to drive productivity, and to do so through ongoing education and empowerment.

In support of this perspective, a recent article in Human Resource Executive magazine identified the four key things that college graduates value the most as they evaluate career options:

  • Flexibility and work/life balance
  • Continuous learning opportunities
  • A socially-responsible employer
  • Room to grow and personal development

In that article, data from a PwC survey of 44,000 workers who had become less-engaged indicated that “71% said their jobs interfered with their personal lives, and 70% said they wanted to be able to work from home.”

Similarly, a September 16th letsgrowleaders.com blog post shared the plight and surprise of a call center leader who had tried everything to address poor morale – bagels, lunches, contests and games. In the end she was shocked to find, “They didn’t want more fun, incentives or even time off the phones. It all came down to one thing. They wanted us to take a hard stand on the slackers.”

“Letting slackers slide may seem like a short-cut to being likable,” author and Human Capital Consultant Karin Hurt said. “But such pleaser behaviors crush the spirit of those making the biggest impact on your team.” It’s apparent that those who want to be productive and successful do not want to work with those who don’t.

Also quoted in the post was Paul Rubenstein, a partner at Aon Hewitt who said that prospective employees “want to know about your commitment to lifelong learning and development.”

 

 

CI & Engagement a Successful Combination

productivityAndEngagementJust like Continuous Improvement (CI) has become a standard component of doing business for most organizations, the emerging field of Enterprise Engagement applies a strategic approach to designing and implementing programs that achieve clear, measurable results through people.

When no one could measure the economic benefits of engagement, it was a “nice to have.” But now, as summarized in a recent article published by Engagement Strategies Media,  it is quickly becoming an essential means for maintaining a strong competitive position, as market share tends to go to those organizations that are the most productive and that “wow” not only their customers but all of the people involved with their businesses.

Yet most companies lack formalized engagement strategies.

Fortunately the emerging field of Enterprise Engagement has led others to take a more strategic approach, such as Engagement Around the Work. Based on the simple principle that productivity drives engagement, which in turn drives greater levels of productivity, this process-driven methodology can bring about breakthrough results.

While implementation strategies will vary, here are five of the things we have seen organizations do to achieve greater levels of productivity and engagement:

  1. As with all change initiatives, get acceptance and buy-in from senior leaders. Little will be accomplished without this; the best results are achieved when leaders understand the benefits of engagement and take action.
  2. Create a formalized implementation plan and establish performance measures so that progress can be tracked. Develop realistic, achievable, and measurable goals and objectives.
  3. Work with the leaders so that they can model the right behaviors and cascade the concepts to their reports and throughout the organization. These behaviors include timely performance feedback, effective listening, and empowering people with education and support.
  4. Reward and recognize people so that they feel supported in their efforts.
  5. Measure return on investment.

How Productivity Drives Engagement

productivityAndEngagementIn an earlier post we shared some of the reasons why so many organizations struggle to engage their workforce. Among the challenges cited was the failure to understand the link between engagement and productivity.

Based on research and experience, we have concluded that productivity drives engagement, not the other-way-around. By increasing employees’ productivity, you get increased engagement, and that engagement, in turn, increases productivity, and the other positive and measurable results that come from increased engagement.

A couple of supporting comments:

“Employee happiness and morale is NOT the critical path to employee productivity. but productivity and employee achievement are the critical path to high morale and a happy work environment. Morale and employee happiness aren’t the means to the end — they are the end itself.” —Morale and Motivation Myth…No Strings Attached

“Improving our work is what ultimately captures the mind, the heart and the spirit of employees.” —Results From the Heart by Kyoshi Suzaki

The concept of productivity driving engagement is one of the core principles of our approach to engaging a workforce and, ultimately, customers and the marketplace — it’s all about the 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.

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