The Great Myth of Employee Engagement


 

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The hottest topic for most organizations this year is “Employee Engagement.” How are we keeping our employees and team members engaged and excited about their work? How do we increase team member productivity without increasing our costs? Study after study tells us engaged employees work harder, stay longer, perform at higher levels, and overall help build profitable organizations that people WANT to come and work for.

Every year numerous publications post their lists of top companies that everyone says they want to or love working for. I bet you can probably guess which company is at or near the top every year: Google. We’ve all seen pictures and video of the Google campus with its nap pods, ping pong tables, video games, free food from what appears an on-site supermarket, dog walking service, ride service, you name it service, all designed to do what? Increase team member engagement. Of course they are going to top the list for best companies to work for, right?

Here’s an interesting statistic for you. What is the average tenure of a Google team member? Personally, my first guess was 5 to7 years, so you can understand my surprise when I learned it was 12-14 months. So here’s a question: If Google is such an amazing place to work and everyone loves being there, then why do so many people leave after such a short period of time? If your company was burning through people every 18 months would you feel like you were hitting the mark on employee engagement?

The myth is that team members want to have playgrounds and smoothie bars at their workplace in order to be engaged, but the reality is they already are engaged, just usually not on their work.

Think about it for a minute. How much time are people actively participating with some sort of the social media platform? Would it be fair to say that most are focused and have an intended outcome in mind with this interaction? So clearly we are engaging in something, and the fact is psychologists and social scientists all agree that the natural state of the human experience is engagement. What that says simply is we would all prefer to be engaged rather than the opposite.

So how do we get people to do what they actually would do naturally otherwise? Start by asking yourself the right questions. Why do you come to work everyday? What charges you up to come in and fight the good fight? I bet it’s not to come in and take a nap in a chair, play ping pong, or get a free cappuccino.

Think about the best days you have in the workplace for a minute and ask yourself – What did I do that day that made it feel so special?

Most will say they accomplished or created something, or felt like they were valued or created value in some way. Others may say they connected with someone at a meaningful level. Maybe you learned how to do something or mastered a skill that you never thought you could.

The common denominator here is that you felt as though something you did actually mattered, that is was important and worthwhile. The first and probably most important step to creating and building team member engagement is helping your employees find meaning and purpose in what they are doing every day. I realize that it’s not always easy to find that meaning, so it’s up to you to help create the meaning with your mission and values.

Remember people do not work for money, they work for people. A paycheck is just part of the contract and a baseline expectation. Just like like the air we breath, team members expect a paycheck to be there regardless of the circumstance. If I feel like what I do matters, that it’s important and makes a difference (and not just to the bottom line) then it’s starts to feel less like work and more like life. That is how to create engagement.

Ask yourself this week:

How engaged is my team in the work we are setting out to accomplish this year?

What would my team members say if we asked them about the work they do?

Would they feel as though it mattered and made a difference?

How are you instilling a sense of accomplishment and creating value with your employees? Would you believe it yourself?

What steps am I willing to commit to this week to connect my team members with the overall mission and values of my organization? What impact will that have on my team?

 

Thoughts for the week:

To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace. – Doug Conant

When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute. – Simon Sinek

Business and human endeavors are systems… we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system. And wonder why our deepest problems never get solved. – Peter Senge

On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: A great place for great people to do great work. – Marilyn Carlson

Engaged employees stay for what they give (they like their work); disengaged employees stay for what they get (favorable job conditions, growth opportunities, job security)-Unknown

People want to know they matter and they want to be treated as people. That’s the new talent contract. – Pamela Stroko

Looking forward to our next conversation

 

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