Gallup’s State of the American Workplace survey reports that 70 percent of U.S. workers are not engaged at work.
If that’s a startling statistic for you, and you want more engaged employees, don’t hire a consultant to design new engagement initiatives. Instead, demonstrate your own engagement.
I recommend you ditch your engagement projects. Far too many executives mistakenly chase engagement numbers to drive business performance, when they should instead be rolling up their own sleeves and jumping into the task.
Why engagement matters
Engagement is a side benefit of success, not a thing to chase on its own. From my vantage point as an executive recruiter, it’s painfully obvious that sustained employee engagement does not flow from conducting employee surveys that ask whether people have a friend at work. Nor does it flow from superficial stuff like your company picnic. Engagement flows from the work. It flows from creating a business environment that allows people to do their best work, and then hiring the people who love the work you need done.
To inspire top performance from your employees, they need to know what’s important about their jobs and why they’re working to achieve results. They need to know how their performance will be measured — the framework and context in which you consider their successes or failures. They need to know what tools you will provide to do the work, and how much support they will have from you.
Get in the game
Ultimately, the best way to demonstrate the importance of the work is through your own engagement. Employees notice your level of commitment. They look at who you hire, what you pay, what resources you provide and the attention you pay to helping them succeed.
This starts from the very beginning. Your job advertising and interview process should always reflect the importance of the job. Otherwise, you will drive away the very high-potential employees who are most likely to succeed, before you even have a chance to interview them.
When you post a dull job description, when you are vague about your performance expectations, when your interview is a meandering set of superficial questions, and when you hire people based on whether you like them, you repel the very people you need. Typical hiring processes often end with hiring people who excel during the interview, but turn out to be empty suits.
If you want to improve employee engagement, here is where you start:
- Identify the big juicy problem you want someone to solve. Be ready to explain why it is important to you.
- Find the people (inside or outside your organization) who want to solve that problem, and learn how to interview people to reveal their passion.
- Collaborate with your employees to outline what they need to solve the problem, the timeline, and how you intend to measure the success of the project. Expect to learn something from that back-and-forth conversation.
- Collaborate on what tools and support your employees need to solve the problem. It might be more than you expected.
- Most importantly, stay engaged with your employees at appropriate intervals to clear obstacles and to provide perspective.
Once you demonstrate your own full engagement to the pursuit of victory, your employee engagement will surely follow.