WORKERS WHO ARE eager to come into work each day are “engaged”– fully involved in what they do at work and enthusiastic about their contribution and workplace environment.
Disengaged workers are the opposite — clock-watchers waiting for their workday to end (and put them out of their misery) or those who are physically and mentally exhausted by their jobs. Signs of disengagement include absenteeism, low morale, “zombies” going through their day avoiding eye contact and “checked out” workers (think surfing the Internet vs. working).
Sadly, surveys indicate fewer than one in three employees is “engaged” at work. Studies confirm that disengaged workers lead to low productivity and high employee turnover. One study, from The Hay Group, revealed that offices with engaged employees are up to 43 percent more productive.
Creating a workplace culture that supports engagement is important.
Here are several key factors:
The worker’s personality, talent and skills match the job. If employees aren’t a good fit in a position, they “check out.” Bored workers are likely overqualified and not given opportunities to work to their strengths and potential. Job-hoppers frequently report to me they are leaving because they are “underutilized” or aren’t given enough responsibility. Personality matters — an extroverted creative individual will likely disengage if the bulk of the time on the job is spent on mundane, menial tasks.
People believe their job matters. Leaders need to make it clear to their people how what they do contributes to the big picture. Most employees are inspired knowing how they are positively affecting the quality of the company’s products or services. Help them “get” how their daily output/tasks/responsibilities matter. Engaged employees feel valued.
People have clear but reasonable expectations. Engaged employees know what success looks like in their job. They are challenged but not overwhelmed by what they are being asked to do on a daily basis. Challenge should energize and inspire workers, not lead to exhaustion, stress, illness or burnout. As a coach, I see a disturbing trend of more and more people suffering from job stress. Many are exhausted (all trying to do more with less) — it’s taking a toll. These people are crying out for leadership and help. Most are angry, tired and disengaged. They need leaders who can help them sort out priorities, provide necessary support/resources and remove obstacles to success. Wise leaders help their people work smarter — not harder.
People are given feedback and growth opportunities. We all want to know how we are measuring up. Learning and improvement happen with feedback. Unfortunately most bosses aren’t giving enough of it to satisfy their employees. It’s important for workers to grow and develop and understand next steps to moving beyond their current job responsibilities (and pay scale).
What to do to increase engagement?
- Monitor burnout and exhaustion. Your people working all hours of the day and night isn’t a good thing.
- Create a company culture where people want to come to work. Encourage social interactions at work (dare I say even fun!), reasonable work life balance and opportunities for people to grow and advance in their careers. Engage people’s hearts and minds with inspiring visions — help them imagine and achieve the possibilities.
- Help employees identify their personal strengths and weaknesses (or areas for improvement) and coach/support them in finding alignment at work.
- Give responsibility. Most people like having initiatives or projects that they can run with. Most will prove they are capable (and will come into work with a new pep in their step because they finally have ownership of something).
- Talk to employees about the daily nature of their work and what might be getting in their way of engagement. Fix broken systems or processes that are exhausting or frustrating your people.
Educate, train and coach company leaders about the importance of engagement and how to increase it.
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