The benefits of employee engagement have been well established. In his Harvard Business Review article, Leigh Buchannan states that companies with engaged employees enjoy 20% better employee performance than their counterparts. On the flip side, Gallup’s research into three levels of employee engagement; 1-engaged, 2-not engaged, and 3-actively disengaged indicates that actively disengaged employees cost American business $350 billion annually.
So I teamed up with Barb Taylor Krantz, psychologist, consultant and coach with The Bailey Consulting Group offers her advice to small business owners and executives on the often hidden, but, significant role employee engagement plays in business success.
In a small business, employee engagement has an even bigger impact. There simply isn’t enough margin for error when it comes to employee performance. In today’s super-charged competitive environment, every organization, no matter what their size, should be monitoring and managing employee engagement. This is where Barbara Krantz Taylor spends a fair amount of her time. Here are her thoughts.
In a recent survey, over 95% of employees completing The Bailey Employee Engagement Survey reported that they are working harder because they:
- Look for ways to do their jobs better
- Are willing to do more than what is required
- Enjoy challenges that stretch their capabilities
- Set high standards for themselves
- Set challenging goals for themselves
- Feel others would describe them as a “high achiever”
I’m not sure any organization could ask for much more dedication to work than that! However, when many leaders hear these results they express a degree of skepticism. “THAT MANY of our employees? I don’t think so…” So, what do these results really mean?
Perhaps employees are flat out inflating their answers because of what they believe they should say. But, let’s suppose employees believe they ARE working as hard as they can and exceeding the expectations you have. Several other possibilities come to mind:
Your employees may be telling you that they are working at full capacity. Yet, most of the leaders I know must ask these same employees to give even MORE of themselves to the job.
The perspective of employees and their leaders regarding performance may be different. Most leaders struggle with describing what job expectations are, much less describing what “exceeds expectations” looks like.
Employees who go above and beyond do so simply because they want to. They are internally driven to continuously improve. They bring a personal work ethic to their job that motivates them to offer up their discretionary effort.
How do you create the opportunity for employees to offer discretionary effort? If we believe the employee engagement survey results (and from my experience I do!), exhorting your employees to work harder for the cause is likely to backfire. It implies they are not currently working hard.
Instead, ask employees to talk about why they work for your organization, what motivates them to achieve, and what success on the job looks like. Find a relaxed and casual conversation for this dialogue – not during the formal performance evaluation! Include some of the following in your conversation:
- Explore with employees which aspects of their job are most satisfying and how they could contribute more in those areas
- Discuss areas where they are meeting performance expectations and what exceeding expectations looks like
- Encourage employees to set challenging, meaningful goals for their own development
Notice when employees have exceeded expectations. If you notice when employees offer maximum effort you will find they are more likely to offer it again.
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Posted by: Mike Clough