Engaged employees are rare.
Gallup’s most recent global research found that a mere 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work. According to the latest State of the American Workplace report, just 33 percent of employed U.S. residents are engaged at work.
Engaged workers stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the rigorous effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with zeal and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move your business forward.
The muttering and the middling
Contrast those go-getters with actively disengaged employees, who often monopolize managers’ time and even drive away customers. Whatever engaged employees do—such as solve problems, build internal rapport and create new customers—actively disengaged employees will undermine.
Not-engaged employees—those in the mediocre middle—offer perhaps the greatest untapped opportunity for businesses to boost performance and profitability. They are not overtly hostile or disruptive and probably do just enough to fulfill their job requirements. They sleepwalk through their day, uninspired and unmotivated.
Most of the global workforce is “not engaged.” Most employees reluctantly head to work, lacking energy and passion for their jobs.
How to spin straw into gold
Converting this group of employees into engaged workers is the most effective strategy that any organization can implement to increase performance and sustainable long-term growth.
That’s easier said than done, but here are five tactics that can boost employee engagement throughout your organization:
1. Use the right employee engagement survey. When company leaders ask employees for their opinions, those employees expect action to follow. However, businesses often make the mistake of using employee surveys to collect data that are irrelevant or impossible to act on.
It won’t do much good to simply go through the motions of “doing a survey.” Survey data should be specific, relevant and actionable—and communicators should craft questions accordingly. Data should also be used to track and monitor key performance metrics.
2. Focus on engagement at the local and organizational levels. Real change occurs at the local workgroup level, but it happens only when company leaders set the tone from the top.
Companies reap the most benefit from engagement initiatives when leaders weave employee engagement into performance expectations for managers—and enable them to deliver on those expectations. Managers and employees must feel empowered to make a significant difference in their immediate environment. Leaders and managers should work with employees to identify barriers to engagement and opportunities to effect positive change.
Employees are familiar with the company‘s processes, systems, products and customers. They are also experts about themselves and their teams. So, it makes sense that they will have the best ideas to maximize these elements and deliver improved performance, business innovation and better workplace experiences.
3. Select the right managers. The best managers understand that their success (and the organization’s) will depend on employees’ achievements. However, not everyone has what it takes to be a great manager. Great managers care about their people’s success. They seek to understand each person’s strengths, and they provide employees every opportunity to use their strengths in their respective roles.
Great managers empower their employees, recognize and value their contributions, and actively seek their ideas and opinions. It takes a special combination of talent and temperament to be a great manager, and selecting people who have the right skill set is essential.
If you want to increase employee engagement, take a hard look at how well your company hires, trains, mentors, evaluates, supports and retains managers.
4. Coach managers and hold them accountable for their employees’ engagement. Gallup’s research has found that managers are primarily responsible for their employees’ engagement levels. Company leaders should invest in coaching managers to take an active role in building engagement plans with their employees. It’s crucial to hold managers accountable, track their progress, and ensure that they consistently focus on emotionally engaging their employees.
5. Define engagement goals in realistic, everyday terms. Leaders must make engagement goals meaningful to employees’ day-to-day experiences. Describing what success looks like—using powerful descriptions and emotive language—provides clarity, direction and commitment.
Make sure that managers discuss staff engagement at weekly meetings, in planning sessions and in one-on-ones with employees. Weave engagement into daily interactions and activities, and make it a key component of your workplace‘s culture.
Leaders in top-performing companies find ways to communicate engagement’s effect throughout the year, and they take time to share best practices across the organization. They use a variety of channels to reinforce and recognize the organization‘s commitment to employee engagement.
If employees truly are a company’s most important asset, then leaders and managers should prioritize them. Investing in an engagement program designed to create a more respectful, responsive, empathetic and fulfilling work experience is a great place to start.
A version of this post first appeared on Gallup.