Employee Engagement is a Two-Way Street
Employee engagement math is pretty compelling. If you estimate that marginally engaged employees are currently contributing 60% of their potential output, raising that productivity rate to 80% through engagement initiatives returns a nice 25% boost to productivity without adding a single person to your staff.
However, engagement is a two-way street. The employer’s need is clear, but to achieve the gains the employees must also see a value in raising their engagement. These values can be monetary, but most come from greater personal fulfillment. If employees decide that they do want to derive more meaning and satisfaction from their own work, they will be open to your efforts as a leader to engage them more fully.
What do those employee-centered engagement steps look like? What mindset should an employee adopt to “engage with the engagement process?” How do they motivate themselves to consistently stay engaged, so that you as a leader do not have to hover over each employee to keep each one engaged?
I find a method outlined by Marshall Goldsmith useful in capturing how to view engagement from the employee’s perspective. In short, you flip the script of how you talk about it, challenging the employee to adopt a mindset of self-engagement. No more passively waiting for the company to engage you (entitlement). Go out and make some of your own engagement without asking permission (initiative).* Goldsmith turns the usual questions about how the company needs to support or engage the employee around: What has the employee done to improve engagement and find meaning within their own job?
Here are the six rephrased questions that Goldsmith recommends that you ask yourself as an employee, at any level of responsibility:
- Did I do my best to set clear goals?
- Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement?
- Did I do my best to be happy?
- Did I do my best to find meaning?
- Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
- Did I do my best to be fully engaged?
How would you answer these questions at the end of each week?
All this said, if every employee went out and made some engagement of their own, it might result in engagement chaos, with lots of misdirected energy working against itself. The engagement process does have to be channeled by leaders towards organizational goals (“aligned, passionate action” as we say at Bovo-Tighe.) But with self-engaged employees, more leadership time can be spent on channeling effort than generating effort. That’s a manageable problem for a leader to have!
Note: A version of this post appeared on Dave Tighe’s LinkedIn profile.
*This phrase riffs on the catchphrase of a one-time news reporter for the radio station KFOG in the Bay Area named Scoop Nisker. He ended each (somewhat irreverent) news set with “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own!” The corollary is clear: If you as an employee don’t like the level of engagement in your organization, go out and make some of your own! You may find your boss responds pretty positively to such initiative!