Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.
“Disengaged? What do you mean they’re disengaged? The whiners are lucky they even have jobs!”
If that’s what your bigwigs think of employee engagement, Gallup managing partner Larry Emond has a few statistics to flap in their faces.
Seventy percent of U.S. workers are not reaching their full potential, and these disengaged workers cost the U.S. economy an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion a year, he says. In Germany the figure is as high as €138 billion ($148 billion).
These numbers drag down efficiency and the bottom line—and boost the blood pressure of purple-faced managers trying to prod slothful hirelings into giving it their all, for a change.
The problem isn’t limited to the U.S. and Germany, Emond says in a Ragan Training session titled “The global state of engagement.” A total of 63 percent of workers worldwide is not engaged, and 24 percent are actively disengaged, making them ideal understudies for the role of Wally in “Dilbert.”
“Active disengagement is an immense drain on economies throughout the world,” Emond says.
Your listless staffers aren’t the only ones who smell the stale air of disengagement. Your customers are wondering where that odor is coming from. You don’t grow organically through acquisitions or price cutting, Emond says, but by fully engaging customers and turning them into true believers in your business.
The good news is that you can have an inspired workforce. Here are four tips:
1. Put it on the job evaluation check-off list.
For people to take employee engagement seriously, it has to be key performance metric for all managers, Emond says. Gallup—which does internal surveys as well as its more famous political polling—doesn’t accept projects with clients who won’t let the pollster report its findings to every manager who supervises five or more people.
“The entire story is local,” he says.
It is very common companies to find one work group that is in the 87th percentile of engagement, and another work group in the same building and business group is in the 25th. “It’s about who the boss is,” Emond adds.
2. Make it a priority at the top.
One Gallup client is a global food company with 80,000 employees. When it first started working with Gallup a decade ago, it was in the 16th percentile in employee engagement. Now it’s at the 84th percentile.
“That’s because their executive team said this is a core strategy,” Emond says. “They made a strategy not just that they were going to get better. They were wild enough to make a strategy that they were going to be world class.”
Rather than offer their uninspired underlings a dressing down, the bigwigs realized that the foodstuffs firm would be in trouble if they did not create a highly engaged workplace. They would keep losing their best workers to competitors.
The company made a global commitment to improving, both through a large group of champions who called themselves the Crazy Horses and through top-down insistence that engagement was serious business.
“Every board meeting,” Emond says, “they asked, ‘How are we doing on employee engagement?'”
3. Compare yourself against the best internally.
So many companies benchmark themselves against the industry, Emond says. Instead, tell them about your internal successes and best practices.
“Just focus on what is working here,” he says. “‘You guys are great. Let’s come in. Let’s interview you and find out what you are doing that has you so engaged. … What are the other things that are going on that make that happen?'”
Then communications can share with everybody the high-level engagement that is happening within.
4. Don’t just train your managers to interpret surveys; teach them to engage.
Execs at some companies conducting employee surveys think it’s enough to have managers view a webinar on how to interpret the results, Emond says. But you shouldn’t just be training them on how to read the scorecard.
Manager development programs at the best companies incorporate significant training about how better to engage people. After all, engagement scores relate to how much employees like the Mr. Dithers in your life.
“If I hate my boss, those [scores] are less,” Emond says. “If I love my boss, those are high. About 70 percent of my world is colored by my boss. It’s the filter by which all employees do almost everything.”