Surveys throughout the ages have shown that a large percentage of employed professionals go through their jobs disengaged. The Gallop survey (1.4 million employees, 192 organizations, 49 industries, and 34 countries) published in February 2013 focused on the relationship between engagement at work and organizational outcomes. The study that resulted in the report addressed issues such as absenteeism, accidents, defects, productivity, profitability, and customer relationships.
The implication of the study was that employers who succeed in improving employee engagement reap the benefits on nine key fronts of business performance factors (profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, product quality, safety, shrinkage, turnover, absenteeism, and employee welfare or quality of work life).
This seminal study graphically shows the difference between the top and bottom engagement quartiles. It leaves no doubt even in the minds of the most casual reader how important employee engagement is. The study revealed that actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees nearly 2:1 worldwide (Engaged 13%, Not engaged 63%, and Actively disengaged 24%). The US numbers are a little bit better (29%, 54%, and 18% respectively), but still having much room to change things!
The implication of this study leaves the reader wondering if employers have so much to gain by increasing engagement what is in it for its employees and what can THEY do to make their engagement better from their side. After all, it is employee engagement and not employer engagement! Here is my list of what employees can proactively do on their own to do their part.
But, wait, why should they do this from their side?
The answer is simple if you do your part on some of the key factors to improve your own engagement, because, then, you can derive a variety of benefits for yourself if you know how to translate that employer benefit into something that you can take it to your bank. Also, it is not just what you can take to your bank from the benefits of your engagement, but, more importantly, how it affects your own quality of life. Quality of your workplace experience spills over in the quality of your own lives. So, to go from being indifferent to your work to being enthusiastic about it here is what you can do to get there:
- Rather than merely following orders from your higher ups, find meaning in your assignment and approach it with a story-telling mindset. What story would you write about your work assignment that will showcase your heroism and how would you frame that for putting it on your résumé?
- Talk to someone who cares about your work (best person would be your boss if he cares) and share with them your successes, challenges, and aspirations. Have such conversations often.
- Revisit your company’s vision and mission and tie them to your own work. When you are fighting deadlines and organizational constraints it is difficult to see the forest for the trees. Having this context and perspective may energize you and provide the inspiration you need to find meaning in what you do and your own purpose. When was the last time you visited your own company’s website or read its annual report?
- Find avenues where your opinions matter and see how they translate into outcomes that are visible to you. Seeing how you move the needle makes a big difference in how you see your work impacting those around you.
- Find someone to mentor you and who can encourage your ongoing development. Find someone to mentor, regardless of how long you have worked.
- If your supervisor does not care about you as a person, do not let that stop you from caring for someone around you. Listen to their story and see how you can empower yourself by helping them as their thought partner. See #5.
- If your boss is ignoring you and not providing you the deserved recognition, write an email or a memo to those around you, including your boss and her boss about your achievement and how it has helped change things for the better. This may shame them into providing you the deserved recognition!
- If you do not have the required resources (materials, equipment, ecosystem) for you to succeed find creative ways to get them and share your success getting such resources despite management’s indifference without criticizing your management.
- Manage expectations of those around you. Under promise and over deliver. This philosophy will result in your being seen as a trustworthy person who always comes through in a clutch.
- Keep looking for opportunities both inside and outside the company so that you stay marketable no matter what happens to your work group.
Employee engagement is a dance that both sides need to play, if you do your part well you’d be surprised how things will change around you and quickly, too!