As HR/OD professionals, we are all too familiar with the value of creating higher levels of engagement throughout the workforce. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. That said, at Integris we dedicate our daily lives to studying and working on employee engagement efforts. We want you to benefit from that work, regardless of whether or not we support your efforts directly.
The Value of Employee Engagement
Research from Dale Carnegie includes a list of benefits associated with high engagement:
- Engaged employees will perform better and are more motivated – they provide extra discretionary effort when the organization needs it most.
- There is a significant link between employee engagement and profitability.
- Engaged employees will stay with the company, be an advocate of the company and its products and services, and contribute to bottom-line business success.
- Creates a sense of loyalty in a competitive environment.
- Provides a high energy working environment.
- Engaged employees serve as a brand ambassador for the organization.
To add more depth, we turn to Gallup, the most reliable source for macro data about the impact of Employee Engagement. In their State of the American Workplace, they report findings from over 195,000 U.S. employees. The troubling summary figure, which you have likely seen or heard, is that only 33% of workers claim to be engaged at work.
Perhaps more insightful than the absolute numbers are the figures that correlate engagement levels to organizational performance.
The Drivers of Employee Engagement
While there is no one universally accepted measurement for Employee Engagement, if you examine most survey instruments (including the “Gallup 12,” the ACE survey, the Kouzes and Posner Positive Workplace Attitudes, etc.), you will see that the majority of questions related to issues related to how people interact with their co-workers (we’ll call these team behaviors), and whether or not leaders lead effectively (we’ll call these leadership practices). Other factors, like “Am I paid fairly?” and “Do I believe in the mission of the organization?” play an important but lesser role in influencing engagement.
In fact, a recent study by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, leadership experts and best-selling authors of The Leadership Challenge, concluded that the behavior of an employee’s direct manager accounts for over 35% of that same employee’s level of engagement. The conclusion here is that leaders who more frequently exhibit strong leadership behaviors have direct reports who are more engaged in their jobs.
The next illustrations show excerpts from this research, specifically data related to developing cooperative relationships and building a trust-based environment.
One thing we know from years of organizational development efforts is that “leaders go first.” Simply, that means that when leaders set the tone, the people on their teams are more likely to follow suit. For example, when leaders follow through on promises and develop cooperative relationships (as the illustrations highlight), they are more likely to influence their team members to do the same team.
It’s a virtuous cycle that leads to a healthier work environment and higher levels of employee engagement.
Being Intentional About Influencing the Behaviors You Want
While the core ideas of building trust, enabling healthy relationships and developing effective leaders likely make sense to most of your team members, with an organization full of employees there are likely a thousand different ideas of how to get there. For that reason, it is important for your organization to establish a common language about what it means to be an exemplary leader and to become a cohesive team.
You could, of course, develop your own language, custom designed from the ground up. But this would likely be more costly and less effective than leveraging all the great research and work that’s already been done by people who have dedicated their lives to this pursuit. That then leaves you with the seemingly ominous task of deciding which leadership and/or team development program(s) to select.
Interestingly, in our early days, we at Integris went through this very same exercise and came to some pretty powerful conclusions. As background, the founding Integris team had worked together for nearly a decade as part of another consulting agency, one focused more exclusively on Lean Six Sigma training. When we launched Integris, we did so knowing that we wanted to adopt a short list of leadership frameworks that could serve as “umbrellas” for exactly the kind of situation you are in. You see, there are a large number of skill training programs out there, like Crucial Conversations, Servant Leadership, Situational Leadership, etc. At Integris we are convinced that these skills are very important and useful. But the problem is that, on their own, they don’t create an overarching common language for how leaders and teams should behave. Without such an “umbrella,” leaders and teams within your organization would still not have that shared understanding.
Enter The Five Practices of an Exemplary Leader and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. These two frameworks serve to establish that overarching common language for leaders and teams, respectively. Learn more about these two powerful frameworks.