There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of studies around the issue of employee engagement. Gallop and many other research organizations have concluded that most employee engagement sits around the 35% range. Today many companies and leaders deal what is now called "presenteeism" (lost productivity at work).
Engagement is "the" issue that companies must address in this new global market place. The movement of the aging "boomers" out of the workforce along with the smaller workforce left to replace them is creating a highly competitive labor market. And how are most companies dealing with this new reality? As one study done by Towers-Watson states: "Companies are running 21st century businesses with 20th century work place practices." In this milieu companies are competing to find the right talent, build and maintain engagement and retain that core set of workers with those skill essential to their needs. The cost of not succeeding on these fronts is astronomical and too much is invested in getting a new worker functional in a role just to have them leave and go elsewhere because the company did not created the right environment for engagement.
There are key areas that have been identified as crucial to driving engagement and discretionary effort. One such area is defined as creating an environment that is energizing and promotes the total well being of the staff. This actually goes beyond the traditional concepts that spring to mind such as wellness programs and so on. When Towers-Watson dug a little deeper they decided that this area was best described as relational. That is the sum of the many interactions that occur in an organization. Core to all of this is the time, guidance on performance, coaching and investment that leaders are prepared to put into their teams. I call it recognition.
You may think that this is an oversimplification but lets explore just a couple of thoughts on this. We have discussed in the past that most workers "guess" they have done a good job because nobody yelled at them that day. The reality is that most workers may have very limited dealings with their leadership. Everyone is busy and we fall into the trap of believing that if no one is screaming things must be going okay. Maybe it is but is "okay" what you want? What your team wants? Punching a clock is just that and it is certainly not performance or engagement.
Your taking time to engage with your team on a daily basis is really in effect applying recognition. In addition that interaction gives you opportunity to discuss performance and provide and receive feedback on opportunities to create improvement. Giving your team the scope to explore improvements and innovations is also another form of recognition as in doing so you are communicating a level of trust and confidence in your team.
How are you doing with regard to watching out for the well-being of your team? This is another relational piece that is actually a form of recognition. Do you take the time to notice who is stressed or who doesn't seem to be feeling well? Have you spent enough time with someone that you have confidence in knowing their skill sets and can start coaching them along their career path in the company? All of these are relational in nature but also a form of recognition. We don't take the time to get to know people we are not interested in. Alternately time spent investing in someone is the surest way to communicate value and significance and who wouldn't want to work for that kind of leader or company.
I am sure you realize that there are many more types of relational interactions that you could be employing to generate an energized environment and create sustainable engagement. The key is to identify and practice them. It will not only enrich your team but will enrich your experience of leadership as well.