For most organizations the need to balance business requirements and the employee experience is extremely challenging. Ongoing research by the Gallup organization consistently finds that roughly one third of employees are engaged – meaning they are actively motivated and fully productive. So what’s happening with the other two-thirds of employees? Why are they so actively disengaged?
Unraveling what makes some employees hum and others feel glum is complex. One approach taken by a company to improve employee engagement works for some employees and leads to disappointment for others. As a result, companies either do the very minimum in terms of perks or other actions to improve engagement, or feel more over the top gestures (think Google) are the best way to go. The ongoing struggle with implementing the right engagement tactics will always swing from one point of view to another regardless of the method. One method that provides consistent results regardless of organization size or type in achieving a higher percentage of engagement employees involves coaching managers on essential engagement practices.
Looking at the research regarding causes of employee disengagement finds that problems usually start within the communication structure and framework between an employee and his/her immediate manager. A brief snapshot of feedback from employees (see below) on causes of low engagement sentiments highlights how critical the employee-manager relationship is in driving low or high engagement scores:
· Lack of proper feedback regarding job performance (good or bad)
· No apparent interest in discussing development or career improvement (i.e. potential)
· Hesitancy to disagree with certain decisions for fear of reprisal
· Little to no active attempts at reward or recognition
· Lack of urgency to address gaps in resources to do one’s job properly
· No forum or opportunity to innovative or share creative ideas
Evaluating these causes of poor employee engagement scores, one can quickly surmise that broad event based engagement efforts like installing new perk programs actually has little to no impact on improving engagement scores. The real solution involves organizational thinking and methodology that actively and consistently trains and measures managers on their ability to improve communication with employees. Setting the expectation that a manager’s performance is impacted by low employee engagement (with real consequences and accountability) changes the very foundation that managers need only drive deliverables and execute.
Programs that are part of the value and systemic core of organizational balance in employee engagement doesn’t require managers to perform miracles either, rather, managers simply have to actively participate in the holistic view of employee success that includes balanced feedback, openness to style and expression, identifying potential, and offering challenging work tasks.
Put another way, if employees are held accountable for professional conduct and executing against their assigned job duties, managers simply have to encourage and recognize an employee’s accomplishments and acknowledge growth potential. A coaching program that scripts out ways to communicate to engagement or create goals that challenge employees and offers a forum to discuss discrepancies builds trust – a core foundational element of increasing engagement. Whether coaching managers on engagement encompasses forms, HR software, or gamification techniques to bolster this communication structure the bottom line still rests with what happens in the 1:1 conversation. An honest exchange between managers and employees goes a long way in keeping talent focused, satisfied with their jobs, and of course – engaged with work.