In a discussion on the damaging affects of employee disengagement, we’ve so far covered the 12 questions to gauge employee satisfaction, along with recruitment (or better known as the art of attracting the right kind of employees off the bat). The Gallup report on employee disengagement that we’re sourcing as the basis of our understanding of employee dissatisfaction spans 25 million employees in 189 countries, with the reports primary aim being to find “the best predictors of employee and workgroup performance.” Out of the depth of questions asked, performance, communication, and flexibility topped the charts when it comes to workplace pitfalls. Step 2: Performance A Harvard Business Review blog post titled “The Relationship Between Anxiety and Performance,” cast a powerful reminder on how even the most powerful athletes tend to choke in a performance. Some people simply “disintegrate” under pressure – the cause of which is sometimes physiological but mostly psychologically derived when an individual is trying to “monitor” performance. The solution is to dislocate from a standpoint of performance and rather engage in auto-piloting performance. You might recall the epic failure rates associated with when we feel like someone is looking over our shoulder, a feeling triggered by a sense of monitoring. The key here is to redirect the brain to focus on the mechanics rather than the performance. For bosses, this means worrying less about whether someone looks like they’re working and more about what kind of results they’re producing. Step 3: Communication In light of the progressive communications thrust, a conversation on communication would likely encompass a pow-wow with your team members to discuss company policies on mobile phone usage, cloud platforms, social media, and the sort. However, here I mean something completely different. I’m talking about the elephant in the room situation that dissolves even the best of employees and that’s “quiet politeness”. Inc had a great article on this called “Want Successful Office Communication? Avoid This,” which called out quiet politeness as “the root of team and interpersonal communication destruction.” Simply put, as with any environment where groups of different personalities are locked in a shared space and place under relative daily stress, there is bound to be some discord and tension. You may even just start hating people for insignificant nuances. That’s totally fine. What isn’t fine is how we’re expected to politely quiet ourselves and act professional despite these naturally occurring human emotions. The article in Inc. recommends a five step course of action, but personally I feel that creating an environment where you can vent is most beneficial. Team leaders can do this through cultivating humor and encouraging natural social opportunities for employees to mingle socially and express themselves naturally. When these natural channels are blocked by politeness is when you start seeing undercurrents of gossip and resentment – and inevitable employee disengagement. Step 4: Flexibility Freedom was cited as a number one reason for the “10 Reasons Employees Really Care About Their Jobs”. Published by Inc Magazine, the article noted that while it’s important to have authority, “true responsibility comes from feeling not just in charge but encouraged and empowered to do what is right – and to do what is right in the way the individual feels is best.” In other words, “give me a task to do and I’ll do it. Tell me it’s mine, and tell me to use my best judgment to get it done, and I’ll embrace it. I’ll care because you trust me.” Offering control is also seen as a valuable retention and performance incentive. I’ve seen this strategy first hand as being wildly successful in a case where an overbearing unreasonably demanding Fortune 500 boss in one of the world’s most lucrative industries, use it to gain the respect and dedication of his more than willing team. Granting employee autonomy also automates recognizing task-mongers from leaders – the discriminate rising leaders from employees that are just there to check of a list of duties. The Golden Rule for Employee Satisfaction Stressing the value of employee recognition, the Gallup report highlighted the benefit of praise over monetary reward, citing that 88%-76% would prefer praise and recognition from leadership and peers respectively over just 14% who would prefer to be recognized with a reward or gift over a $1000 value. However, recognition is the last stage employee engagement. The first three are: (1) making sure employees know what is expected of them at work, (2) giving employees the best tools to be successful at their job, and (3) ensuring them that their opinions matter. For the latter, the report recommends an enterprise social network. I recommend Yapmo, a social enterprise solution that allows employees to cast their solutions and empowers their peers to judge them democratically; winning ideas are pushed forward to management while less favorable ideas naturally die out without any management interference. Since employees are the first line of defense in brand management, it makes perfect sense to invest in your employee satisfaction. In fact, a Forrester “Benefits Strategy and Technology Study” shows that a return-on-employees yields a calculable return-on-investment: every 2% increase in employee satisfaction relates to a 1% increase in employee retention.
Understanding your employees isn’t just something HR should be good at. It’s something you, as a leader, need to be good at. Successful leadership is as much about being able to direct the people you’re responsible for, as it is about you being able to direct the company you’re spearheading. Yet, a 2013 Gallup report titled “State of the Global Worker Report” offers a startling reality check revealing a staggering 52% of workers feeling disengaged, a sentiment labeled by the report as including a “lost passion and energy [the workers] once showed toward your organization.” Disengaged workers rarely shift back to a statement of engagement. Rather, most (presently 18% of them currently there) regress into a state of being actively disengaged, which is a state were they have stopped producing high quality work. In fact, the plight of the worker affects a sweeping spectrum of employee types, including those with a college degree (72%), a postgraduate degree (70%), Millenials (67%), Generation X (72%), Baby Boomers (73%), and even the Traditionalist generation that expected workplace monotony (59%). The lack of identifiable gaps shows us one thing: that despite education and generational differences, the modern workforce has an expectation of the value it contributes and reaps from its place of employment. The 12 Indicators of Engaged Employees The Gallup report offered a 12 step true of false checklist to determine employee satisfaction, noting that the first two questions address basic needs while the remaining questions gauge (1) how employees contribute or feel they’ve valued, (2) whether employees feel they fit into an organization’s framework, and (3) any development opportunities afforded. The questions include checking true or false for each of the following: I know what is expected of me at work. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. There is someone at work who encourages my development. At work, my opinions seem to count. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. I have a best friend at work. In the past six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress. In the past year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. In reviewing the questions, immediate red flags include questions that question progress, growth and development. In a workplace that relies dominantly on yearly reviews with minimal monetary reward, with long to endless stretches in-between where mentorship and growth opportunities seem as likely as refuge in a barren landscape, it’s no surprise the modern workplace spanning four generations seems disillusioned and disengaged. As you’ll surmise from the questions, engagement ties in with the value employees feel they reap from a workplace – and the indicators show that they’re more often than not subjective (mostly qualitative) markers. And since the best way to deal with a workplace pandemic is preemptively, I offer a bottom-up six step guide to mapping the mind of your employees – starting with recruitment. Step 1: Recruitment Team leaders vs. HR: which is the best to recruit or a job? I’d argue, hands down, it’s team leaders. The former recognize the grit needed excel at a job while the latter only really understand the checklist passed onto them. This is why attracting the best recruits starts with a search net cast by an internal departmental leader. One of the more popular routes for this methodology includes subscribing to social media platforms potential employees follow. A conversation between a team leader and a recruit will also be a better predictor for team success based on behavioral assessments: is there a meeting of the minds and do the personalities compliment each other? In a direct conversation for example, you might discover that a recruit is a great match for your corporate culture but maybe lacks the experience HR would be looking for on paper. There are also differing skill personalities, and deciding which recruit best matches your needs might depend on the direction your company is looking to head in. Inc. had a great article on identifying the four key types of people, arguing that “there are only four jobs in the world: thinker, builder, improver, [and] producer.” Which you decide to bring on would depend on “where the company is positioned in the classic corporate life cycle.” Pulling the abstract into a real life example, take for instance, a top ranking global think tank that pushes out brilliant ideas. The institute may want to bring on board someone less credentialed but who still understands the field and excels in social and new media – simply because recruiters recognize how much the institute might be lacking in those platforms.