Encouragement for improving employee engagement
If you harbor any doubts about your employees’ levels of engagement, a nationwide Gallup ® poll(opens in a new tab) won’t provide much reassurance.
Gallup asked more than 30,000 part- and full-time workers in the United States about engagement. The good news is 34% of employees say they’re engaged. Now for the bad news: Nearly 17% of employees say they’re “actively disengaged,” and the remaining 53% of workers fall into the “not engaged” category (translation: they show up for work but put in the bare minimum amount of effort required).
In summary, nearly 7 in 10 employees are essentially coasting at work—or worse.
As you’d expect, engagement is one of The BB&T Leadership Institute’s five core leadership programs, along with leadership development, team optimization, talent development and change management. It’s also the subject of our podcast about the six drivers of employee engagement.
The Leadership Amplitude podcast series is hosted by Anna Slaydon, a sales and marketing support analyst at The BB&T Leadership Institute, and features the wit and wisdom of Steve Swavely, PhD, a senior vice president who heads The BB&T Leadership Institute’s corporate leadership development programs.
To understand employee engagement, Swavely notes, it’s necessary to comprehend the concept of the leadership ladder, which is the idea that everything we do in the workplace exists on a continuum. At the outset of your career, you work on task-related functions. For a legal researcher in a law firm, task-related functions might include discovering and confirming information relevant to court cases and hearings, and preparing official legal documents.
At the other end of the continuum are relationship-oriented functions, which are composed of people-oriented tasks. Relationship-oriented functions include creating positive connections with your coworkers, or developing your employees’ talents so they can excel and progress in a company. Ultimately, relationship-oriented functions involve accomplishing tasks through the efforts of other employees.
As you move up the leadership ladder from an early career job such as a legal researcher to a senior management position like being a partner in a legal firm, your efforts evolve from task-oriented functions to people-oriented functions. As a partner, for instance, you're building relationships in a way that increases your effectiveness at getting tasks accomplished through the firm’s legal researchers, lawyers and partners.
Three of the six drivers of employee engagement pertain to task-oriented functions and three of them involve the relationship-oriented functions.
Drivers for task-oriented functions
The first driver concerns factors such as how much clarity an employee has about their job, the direction and purpose of their team, and any changes that occur involving their role. The more they understand their job, so they can successfully perform it, the more engaged they should be. In short, they know exactly what they need to do to succeed.
Control involves how much autonomy an employee believes they have in the tasks they need to complete. Do they possess the independence necessary to perform their job? Do they have a say about workplace decisions that affect them? Are they allowed to think and act independently? The more positive answers to these questions the better.
This driver relates to an employee’s belief in having, or not having, the skills and tools needed to successfully accomplish their job. Ideally, there should be a balance between the challenges posed by a job and an employee’s ability to accomplish it. You want your employees to be challenged by their work, but not overwhelmed by it.
Drivers for relationship-oriented functions
Connectedness involves how much affinity, rapport and trust an employee sees between you and them. Do they think you care about them? How much do they trust you to do the right thing for them? In short, do they believe you are a friend, a foe or largely indifferent?
This driver involves how an employee and their closest coworkers feel you and the organization treat them. If your employees believe everyone is treated fairly in terms of workloads, praise and benefits, they're much more likely to be engaged.
Everyone wants to feel important in the workplace. If an employee thinks their work is respected and valued, the odds are they'll be engaged. On the other hand, if an employee is often overlooked and their contributions are unacknowledged, they can easily become dissatisfied. Ultimately, their performance will slide or they'll leave you for a different job.
How engaged are your employees?
As a leader, you have a lot of control over these six factors in the way you treat your employees. You can be a positive, encouraging, fair-minded and transparent boss, or you can make work miserable for everyone around you.
Through our proprietary research, The BB&T Leadership Institute can assess and measure your team’s overall engagement levels. What is especially helpful is we can pinpoint each of the factors in which your team is excelling, such as clarity and competence, and each of the relationship-related factors to which you need to devote more effort, such as ensuring all your employees feel they are being treated fairly (for example, don’t play favorites).
At a time when nearly 70% of employees say they’re not actively engaged at work, it behooves you to know precisely how engaged your employees are vis-a-vis these six factors. Without this information, your attempts to improve employee engagement won’t be based on accurate, timely data, but largely on your own instincts.
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