In their 2008 Q12 Survey of 1,000 employees in Australia, The Gallup Organisation found that 79% of workers were not engaged or were actively disengaged. Gallup estimated this represented a productivity loss to the nation of around $42 billion annually, which can be translated to lower potential profitability at the individual business level.
An engaged employee is passionate about what they do and will drive innovation to move the organisation forward. Actively disengaged employees are unhappy and don't really care who knows it - they will undermine what engaged people are trying to accomplish, says Susan Rochester.
In the middle are those who are not engaged. These employees are not adding to business growth. They are happy to collect their pay, as long as they don't have to put in too much extra effort to get it. In most businesses, this represents the majority of employees (6 out of 10), and there will be one actively disengaged employee for every engaged employee.
If you're wondering about engagement levels in your business and the drivers of engagement, consider what your team's responses might be to twelve questions Gallup asked employees:
1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
2. Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
9. Are your fellow employees committed to doing quality work?
10. Do you have a best friend at work?
11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked about your progress?
12. In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
As we enter a new phase of the economic cycle, we've noticed a new engagement challenge: If you're having sleepless nights worrying about the future, how do you keep your staff focused and motivated? Here are some suggestions to help you through this period:
1. Keep it real
Keep it real for yourself by objectively analysing your current business position. Don't be tempted to overemphasise the down side because of all the media doom and gloom.
Your staff observe you more closely than you realise. They know your industry, your clients and they see the news. Little will be gained by pretending things are better (or worse) than they are. Instead, let them know the current (and likely future) status of your business, with as much detail as you are comfortable sharing.
2. Keep communicating
In this environment, things change quickly. It can take some time and effort to keep your team up to speed. The best way is through regular, brief, scheduled meetings where you bring staff up to date and they can report to you how they see things. Ask your team for their input and suggestions, allow for questions and listen to their concerns.
No one person has all the answers - make it easy for your team to give you theirs and to engage with the future of your business. You'll be rewarded with greater 'ownership' of both good and bad things that happen.
3. Keep caring
This degree of economic uncertainty is a new experience for many staff. Generation Y, in particular, may be feeling disproportionately anxious, especially as they see their friends losing their jobs. If you can reassure and encourage these employees, you will continue to benefit from their skills, fresh ideas and energy.
Back in 1936, Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) wrote 'Be hearty in your approbation and generous in your praise.' This remains one of the best pieces of people management advice. It costs nothing to genuinely recognise and appreciate those around us. The immediate returns will help sustain you and your business.
Susan Rochester is a specialist in talent assessment, training and people management in the financial services sector. As a consultant, facilitator and coach with experience in designing and implementing practical people-management solutions across a range of industries, Susan understands in detail the challenges faced by advisers, business owners and practice managers in financial services firms. For more information, see http://www.balanceatwork.com.au