There is a massive disconnect between employee engagement in the workplace and employers lack of urgency to address this concern. The result of this slow reaction by employers, according to Monster.com, is 81 percent of employed workers are “very likely” to search for a new job within the foreseeable future. When compared against a similar survey conducted by the American Management Association that showed 61 percent of business leaders see nothing urgent in the job changing intentions of the workforce, a potential perfect-storm of job changing and turnover that could be looming on the employment horizon.
America’s Workforce: A Revealing Account of What U.S. Employees Really Think About Today’s Workplace garnered the following results and sheds insights as to why so many employees are open to new job opportunities:
- Employee’s feel discouraged: More than half (54 percent) of employees have felt frustrated about work.
- Manager/employee relationships need work: Only 38 percent of workers strongly agree that their manager has established an effective working relationship with them.
- People don’t understand strategic direction: Some 40 percent say they don’t get the company’s vision, or worse yet, have never seen it.
- Innovation is being stymied: Nearly 67 percent of American workers can name at least one thing that would prevent them from taking any kind of risk at work.
- Big picture contributions missing: Only 43 percent of workers say they feel accountable for the company’s revenue, profit, or growth.
- Not leading by example: Just 26 percent of workers strongly agree that managers embody the values they expect from their employees, only 39 percent say their manager understands his/her role at the company, and 40 percent strongly feel their managers understand their company’s strategy or goals (Editor’s note: Yikes!).
- Collaboration across teams is tough: Just 27 percent strongly feel they can depend on outsiders to fulfill their duties when working with other groups.
- Training isn’t relevant: Some 26 percent report they don’t have any training available to them right now, and the 62 percent that do have training available believe it is either somewhat or not at all applicable to their jobs.
The barriers to employee engagement within most organizations start at the top with the president or CEO. New research from the United Kingdom’s Ashridge Business School provides some answers as to how CEO’s are contributing to the problem of lack of employee engagement within their organizations.
- Leadership capability
The first barrier relates to shortcomings in leadership skills and behaviors that are counter to building engagement. CEOs believe engagement takes a particular set of competencies, like the ability to forge deep trusting relationships at work, leading with emotion and authenticity, and operating with a genuine openness and honesty. Yet some of the leaders were wary of behaving this way, believing it would lead to dissenting opinions and personal criticism. They agreed they need to be deeply self-aware, but admitted to difficulties reaching true self-awareness if conversations and feedback in their organizations don’t stem from a place of honesty and deep mutual trust.
2. Leadership attributes
Secondly, CEOs recognized themselves as a potential barrier to engagement. They’re cognizant of the fact that some attributes of a leader’s personality can lead to traits or behaviors that could disengage employees. These include being too proud, acting in self-interest, or an inability to show personal vulnerability. CEOs admitted that insecure leaders tend to utilize a command and control approach, while self-confident leaders have learned to let go and share responsibility and decision-making more broadly.
3. Culture and systems
Finally, CEOs acknowledged organizational cultures, systems, and hierarchies can be an engagement road block. Hierarchy creates physical and psychological barriers between staff and management which prevent honest conversations from taking place, and CEOs are especially susceptible to this barrier. Trying to find the proper balance of driving short-term business results and longer-term engagement initiatives are also challenges in a capitalist system which rewards CEOs for delivering short-term financial objectives.
Properly understanding and acknowledging a problem accelerates our ability to discover the solution. If you are a business leader and you want to fix the engagement problems that exist within your company, there are some simple and effective ways to make an immediate impact.
Try being positive and play to the strengths of your individual employees and manage all of the employees the same — as individuals. Give employees positive strokes, not a negative spiral of “yes, but” coaching methods. Focus on an employee’s strengths will enhance positive emotions, rather than the traditional approach of using psychology to fix problems.
Instead of a negative spiral of constant criticism, fault finding, and blame, business leaders have an opportunity to create a positive contagion of praise, appreciation, and recognition of success, progress made, and desirable behaviors demonstrated.
Does that mean criticism never has a place in the workplace? Of course not. We also learn from our errors and need criticism to understand when and where we can improve. But never forget, it takes five positive points of praise to balance out the impact of one negative (if necessary) criticism.
Blogger Steve Roesler points out that there is a relationship between how much an employee will love their job and how well they perform. There is a dynamic business leaders need to know about in order to manage others and to build engagement in the workplace:
- Some people have to feel good about their job and their workplace before they can get busy and perform at their max.
- Others have to have to first achieve super results in order to feel good about their jobs.”
You need to do so in the way they need and prefer, not in the way you would prefer to be managed yourself.
Recognizing and praising the work of team members in a very specific and detailed way helps the first type of employee “feel good” about their job and role in helping the team succeed. Recognition also shows those in the second group how their super results have not only been achieved but noticed and valued by others as their efforts help achieve a greater mission.