The question of whether employee engagement impacts a company’s bottom line is no longer a debate. Years of research and employee opinion surveys have shown that a more motivated and strategically aligned workforce not only produces happier workers but better profits as well. Kevin Kruse is the NY Times bestselling author of ‘We’ and recently launched his newest book, Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment at Work. Kevin took a few moments to talk about his new book.
Q: What was the motivation for you to write this book?
A: I had written a couple other books on employee engagement and have spoken to thousands of people around the world on the topic. But one day, a manager in one of my talks shouted out, “How come it’s always the manager’s job to increase engagement? Why is the person complaining about communication the same person who never raises his hand in a meeting to ask a question?”
That question really stopped me in my tracks, and I started looking into it. I saw an IDG Research piece that suggested 43% of engagement comes from intrinsic motivation and saw how positive psychology techniques were impacting people’s level of happiness. So I immediately decided to write one last book on engagement, this one for the individual employee. It teaches them about engagement, and what they can do to take some ownership for it.
Q: Why do companies have such a hard time creating and implementing effective engagement strategies?
A: The biggest problem is that they take a top-down approach. Their engagement scores are reviewed at the very top and senior executives brainstorm ways to increase engagement that typically include an adjustment in benefits, casual Fridays or generic leadership training for managers. They need to realize that to move the needle on engagement, they need to actually enlist the brain power and willpower of the front-workers themselves.
Q: Is “employee engagement” an overused term?
A: Actually I think it’s underused. It’s true that the topic has become more and more popular among HR folks, but when I tell the average person they need to get engaged at work they usually say, “You mean I should get married?” When everyone understands what employee engagement means, why it’s important and how it’s different from “satisfaction” and “happiness”.
Q: Do you think all the new technology we have to collaborate and connect improves engagement or makes it harder?
A: I believe technology is always neutral. It’s up to us to abuse it or benefit from it. 15 years ago, when I was a partner at Kenexa, I led the team that was developing the entire suite of online recruiting, selection and talent tools. Having cloud-based talent systems has really benefited companies and individuals alike. But on the flip side, I’ve known people who manage through email and keep their head buried in the dashboard metrics. Nothing will ever replace management by walking around.
Q: What are the top three things companies can do to ensure an engagement initiative will stick?
A: There is no secret to what makes engagement initiatives work. First, the company needs to actually measure it through surveys—at least once a year, although I used to do it twice a year in my fast growing companies. Second, managers need to get their individual results so they can in turn share them with their teams. The action planning on the team level is where the magic happens. And third, hold managers accountable for having decent engagement scores. Tie their comp to the scores, and fire them if they don’t improve. Sounds cold, but it works.
Q: What are the best ways for individuals to improve their level of engagement on-the-job?
A: It starts with understanding that engagement—creating a great place to work—is everyone’s job. You be an equal partner with your boss when it comes to engagement. Do you think communication could be improved? Great, what specific suggestions do you have to improve communication? You aren’t happy with your growth and development? Great, hold a career path meeting with your supervisor to discuss your strengths and limitations and long-term career goals. We all need to shake off our victim and entitlement mentality and realize that, while we can’t do it all, we need to meet our “bosses” halfway when it comes to workplace culture.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about the book or your work?
A: The first step in increasing our own level of engagement is to understand what our own personal drivers of engagement are. So I developed a free online assessment anyone can take at, www.MyEngagementStyle.com, which will pinpoint what your motivational triggers are, and how you can begin to activate them.
Kevin’s book is available on Amazon. For more information on Kevin please visit. www.kevinkruse.com.