The 3 things managers should know about engagement

Here’s what employees need to feel engaged at work. Take notes because most executives, despite their best efforts, don’t understand the employee perspective.


Executives still don’t understand what employees need to fully engage in their work and achieve the organization’s objectives.

I enjoyed ChiefExecutive.net‘s summary of Deloitte’s Core Beliefs and Culture survey. A company’s culture and foundation—its core values and beliefs—are indisputably important to employees and their ability to engage in an organization and their work. Yet, executives still miss the mark on several points.

Thankfully, executives (94 percent) and employees (88 percent) alike agree company culture is important to business success. But there are big misses on several fronts, too.

1. Employees say strategy is nothing without culture.

I’ve written several posts on this point. Without culture, strategy cannot be fully effective. Employees agree, yet executives are still missing the point:

“However, there’s more work to be done to close the gaps on other business priorities. The study indicates executives tend to prioritize a clearly defined business strategy (76%) above clearly defined and communicated core values and beliefs (62%), whereas employees value them equally (57% and 55%, respectively). Also, 70% of employees who agreed that their companies had performed well financially said their boss speaks to them often about culture. But only 19% of executives and 15% of employees believe strongly that their organization’s culture is widely upheld.”

Unless employees at every level are committed to living the culture by demonstrating the company’s core values in their daily work (and are reinforced, praised and recognized for doing so), then that last point above will remain lackluster.

2. Executives don’t know what employees need to feel engaged.

In nearly every survey related to this topic, executives, leaders and managers always rank money as most important to employee engagement. Yet, employees always rank better management-communication, recognition, opportunities to grow and learn, etc.-as what they really need to be engaged:

“The Core Beliefs and Culture survey found a consensus (83% of executives and 84% of employees) that having engaged and motivated employees is a top factor substantially contributing to company success. However, executives ranked tangible elements such as financial performance (65%) and competitive compensation (62%) most highly as drivers of employee engagement, while employees rated more highly the intangible elements of regular and candid communications (50%) and access to management/leadership (49%).”

Someday the cumulative weight of all these surveys will sink in for executives.

3. Executives don’t display core company values as well as they think they do.

Your employees watch you closely. Do you really live the company’s core values? They follow your lead, so be sure you, as a manager, set the right example.

“Deloitte’s survey indicated a significant gap between executive belief and employee perception, often punctuated by executive overstatement. For instance, 84% of executives believe senior leadership regularly communicates their company’s core values and beliefs. Only 67% of employees feel that is true. In terms of “practicing what one preaches,” 81% of executives compared to 69% of employees believe senior leadership acts in accordance with the company’s core values and beliefs.”

As an employee or manager, what do you value most? What do you need to be engaged in your organization?

Derek Irvine is vice president, client strategy and consulting service at Globoforce. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com. A version of this article first appeared on Recognize This!

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