Tag Archives: employee engagement

Get in the Driver’s Seat

Employee engagement – or the contribution and satisfaction of an employee – is something that can be driven, prompted, and increased. Managers and supervisors, if you don’t think you can do something about your employees’ engagement, please get on board and into the driver’s seat!bridesmaids

There are a few common drivers known to affect employee engagement that we’ll look at today and a few more next week. The first is emarmstrong_1416675cployee perception of job importance. I read once that a janitor at NASA reported, “I’m putting a man on the moon,” when asked what his job was. I absolutely love this. It reminds me of bad weather and emergency response policies that many local governments have: “only essential personnel must respond.” If you ever wonder about an employee’s view of his or her importance in accomplishing the organization’s mission – consider not specifying which positions are essential! Who do you think would show up? Is it just police and fire, directors, a receptionist, and a handful of laborers? Perhaps in shorter terms, some staff isn’t as critical, but if we have any non-essential positions in our workforce, maybe we need to reconsider those for the long term! My real point is: all positions could and should be considered essential and important to achieving the organization’s mission and vision. Your employees should understand their connection to it and be as passionate about it as the man who mopped floors in the control center of the Apollo missions.

Another driver of employee engagement is clarity of job and expectations and roles. It’s so, so important for an employee to be clear about what you expect from them. While there is benefit to self-direction and even something like Google’s 20 percent time, not giving direction to your employees means potential lost time on projects, confusion between employees about who should be doing what, even leaving employees feeling like you don’t value them. We can so easily prevent these things and even drive engagement higher by setting clear expectations, often.bjnovak

The best way to reinforce those expectations is through the next driver of employee engagement, which is regular feedback from supervisors and managers. According to an Employee Attitude Survey done by Kelton Research, unfortunately 68% of employed Americans said they hadn’t received useful feedback from their supervisors in the previous six months. At the least, interaction, communication, and simple dialogue should occur on a very regular basis. Daily interaction is desirable and ideal. Something as simple as a morning greeting and thanking your employees for their work will go a very long way. Beyond that, we should define together what “useful” feedback is. To me, useful feedback would include constructive criticism, ways to improve performance, acknowledgement of strengths, priority of tasks, opportunities for development, and advancement.

kittydriveJust as good car drivers don’t become great car drivers overnight, good managers don’t become great without hard work and learning to balance multiple systems and tasks simultaneously. Being more strategic and regular with your coaching conversations is a necessary system to master and balance with your daily demands, so that you can drive employee engagement upward! These regular coaching conversations will allow you to help your employees see their importance in the organization, receive regular useful feedback, and have clarity of your expectations of them. Next week, we’ll take a look at more ways to put employee engagement into high gear!


Written by:
Heather Harrison
Development Manager

Who’s Who of Employee Engagement?

So who are the most engaged employees in America? And where do they live? Ultimately, female Baby Boomer managers with high school diplomas who live in Montana, in their first six months of work have the highest engagement! I’m not saying that if you meet a woman fitting this description that she’ll be the happiest person in America…but according to statistics, we can go there for at least today. Let’s take a look at the most highly engaged employee categories based on Gallup survey data in the American workplace:

engagementchartThe states with the highest engagement are: Montana, Mississippi and Louisiana, each with 4-7% higher engagement than the current national average. Meanwhile those with the lowest are District of Columbia, New York, Minnesota and Connecticut, all of which have at least 3% more actively disengaged employees than the national average.

Employees with a college degree have lower engagement than do workers whose education level doesn’t exceed a high school diploma. According to Gallup, this indicates that employers aren’t maximizing their investment in these more highly educated employees. How can we engage those who invested their time and money into time at a university? One solution is – look at their strengths.

Furthermore, employees are the most engaged in their first six months of work, or once at the executive level, after ten years of work. What matters here is that organizations make the effort to keep employees in their “honeymoon” engagement level. New employees are excited to come to work, they’re learning new things, and making new connections in the organization. Can’t we replicate that for our more tenured folks?

engagementchart2Another interesting finding from Gallup’s more recent data is that the Millennial generation are the least engaged.  While they are currently the least numerous in the American workplace, they will soon be the largest percentage of our population due to sheer numbers. With Baby Boomers eligible for retirement we will see a dramatic increase in the percentage of Millennials in the workforce – this will cause a shift from the highest percentage of the workforce being the most tenured to the least tenured immediately, as Generation Xers are much fewer in population. Our question here should be: are Millennials not engaged because they’re simply the youngest and the least experienced, or perhaps the least loyal? Or it could be due to the results from another Gallup survey reporting that Millenials’ strengths are not being harnessed on a daily basis. What can you do to manage your Millennials differently knowing this information?

One of the most interesting groups to note is that managers are the most actively engaged employees in the American workplace. What is it that managers have at the middle level of the organization that those higher and lower do not? My thought is that managers have a prime seat to understand the mission, vision, and values of an organization and to have the gratification of seeing their efforts, delegation, development, and coaching achieving the big picture.

There’s no one right way to engage everyone — no one-size-fits-all approach. Every employee has his or her own learning style, communication style, appreciation style, personality, background, strengths, opportunities for growth, hang-ups, and preferences. Get to know your folks. The better you know them, the better you’ll engage them. The more you engage them, the more productive your team will be! And remember, engagement = a special kind of happiness! We can all use more happy in our lives!

Soon, we’ll look together at drivers of employee engagement, which will perhaps shed some more light on things. Until we meet again, check out this video made by my Managing Director, Krisa Delacruz, on employee engagement!


Written by:
Heather Harrison
Development Manager

How to Get Your Employees (and Yourself!) Engaged

engagedWe instinctively know people are happier when they are engaged. (We aren’t referring to those who are engaged to be married, although admittedly that’s typically a blissful group.) Common sense, coupled with years of research, tells us that people who are engaged in their work are happier, healthier, more dependable, more productive and more positive.

If you pictured the people that were just described and you want them on your team, you are now asking a crucial question: “What leads to engagement?”

Interestingly, there are some parallels to the romantic process. When you are dating, you get to
know someone and take note of his or her special traits and talents, you find out what s/he enjoys, and you spend time in those activities that make him or her happy.

howyoudoinIn the workplace, you get to know your employees, learn what their strengths are, and to the degree that you can, you assign projects that utilize those abilities. You observe your employees, help them discover their natural talents, and develop those strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.

If a weakness is due to a lack of experience or training, then improvement will come with time and instruction. If a weakness is due to a lack of natural talent in that area, to continue to focus on it drains the employee of his or her energy and confidence.

So how can you identify your employees’ natural talents? What do they learn quickly? Which assignments do they seem to enjoy doing and do well? Is there excitement in her voice when she talks about the project? Or does he keep procrastinating on a particular type of assignment?yeahno

Some organizations utilize profiles such as the StrengthsFinder profile developed by the Gallup International Research and Education Center to identify the natural talents of their employees. One city department recently participated in an assessment to determine strengths, then created an Excel spreadsheet that listed all of the employees with a mark indicating their strengths. They learned that their team included such a variety of strengths, they had them all covered! And they created a visual system to quickly identify which employee has specific strengths. Can you imagine what a great tool that would be for a manager who is deciding project assignments?brandnew

What about the job satisfaction for the employee who is spending the majority of the work day matched to projects where s/he excels? How much more happy and engaged would employees be if they were able to work on projects they naturally enjoy, are energized by, and where they have the opportunity to further develop their talents?

What if you are the unhappy, disengaged employee seeking a new job? What steps can you take to make sure you are a good match for a potential position? Identify your strengths through a profile like the one mentioned above, or through your own observation of when you enjoy and excel on specific aspects of work. Sometimes a colleague can help you see where you seem to naturally thrive and shine.

When you prechanandalerpare your resume, don’t just list your current and past job responsibilities. List the specific parts of the job that best utilized your strengths and that you enjoyed. If you were responsible for compiling data into a monthly report but you dreaded it and felt your energy drained when you worked on it, don’t list that on your resume.

Market yourself for the position that is the best match of your strengths, natural talents, and abilities. When you interview, ask questions to determine the requirements of the job with your strengths in mind. The new position should be a great marriage of your talents, qualifications, and strengths with the primary responsibilities of the job.

Matchmaking in the workplace? It’s a concept that can definitely be espoused!


Written by:
Claudia Deakins
Executive Search Manager

Strategies for Employee Engagement

Today I’d like to take a closer look at Gallup’s State of the Workplace Report for you – so you don’t have to! Continuing from last week’s post, engaged employees are described by the report as rare:

“Engaged workers stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.”

Why we should want engaged employees, aside from the obvious:

  • 71% of engaged employees recommend their community as opposed to 53% of actively disengaged employees. Please ponder the customer service implications of this statement for a moment.
  • Engaged employees report their overall life satisfaction as higher than those who are actively disengaged. Remember though, positive psychology tells us that it’s likely that those engaged folks were happy BEFORE they were engaged, and thus, successful at work due to that happiness!
  • Engaged employees are four times as likely as those who are actively disengaged to say they like what they do each day.
  • Engaged employees are more than three times as likely to be “Thriving” than actively disengaged employees. This has a critical connection to surviving and managing change, either at work or personally.
  • Engaged employees have more positive daily interactions; almost all engaged employees (95%) report being treated with respect the previous day.

More recent data from Gallup shows that employee engagement is on the rise and is at its highest since 2000 when the firm began tracking employee engagement, yet the majority of American workers are still not actively engaged. Overall, among the 142 countries included in the current Gallup study, 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs, while 63% are not engaged and 24% are actively disengaged. However, these results vary substantially among different global regions. Actively disengaged employees continue to outnumber engaged employees by nearly 2-to-1. This is a call to action, managers!

Fortunately, the report also provided an outline of strategies to increase employee engagement:

  1. Select the Right People – most importantly, the right managers. Once the right managers are in place, hiring the right employees is easier.
  2. Develop Employees’ Strengths – beyond placing people in the right seats on your bus, the report says you must invest in your employees’ greatest talents to optimize their performance. “People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job.” (Tweet This)
  3. Enhance Employees’ Well-Being – Engaged employees have lower health costs, use less sick leave, have better health overall and better health habits (Tweet This). Making your number one assets’ well-being a priority – making it an organizational goal or strategy, communicating it regularly – embedding activities and positive choices into daily work and holding managers accountable for making those things available are all steps toward achieving increased well-being, organization-wide.

For you Star Trek fans,




Written by:
Heather Harrison
Development Manager

Just Say ‘No’ to Forced Smiles

Last week, I was saddened by the news that Dr. Oliver Sacks is suffering from terminal cancer. He wrote this wonderful op-ed for the New York Times, where he discusses his diagnosis and how he is spending his final days. Despite the subject matter of the article, it is an amazingly uplifting piece and I highly recommend reading it.uj4rvkhodeuxooktttyg

Just after reading the piece by Dr. Sacks, I came across this article, also in the New York Times: “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile.” In it, Paul Jaskunas recounts a story of a failed interview for a teaching job where he was asked if he would describe himself as a “passionate teacher.” His answer showed him to be less than enthusiastic and he acknowledges, in the article, that he didn’t consider himself a teacher at all because he hadn’t been in a classroom in years. He goes on to discuss the disturbing “enthusiasm” and forced smiles of Disney World workers and wonders what it implies about our attitude toward work that this level of enthusiasm is expected, even if there is nothing genuine about it. Jaskunas says, “Work has been an obligatigiphy (1)on since Adam and Eve found themselves east of Eden. We are still enchained by the dull necessity of earning our bread, yet we cheerfully insist, to ourselves and one another, that we labor freely.”

True, work is mostly about survival.  For many of us, it isn’t about anything but survival. But most of us spend at least 40 hours per week—sometimes more—at our jobs. If you do the math, that’s 2,080 hours a year (about 87 full days) at work. That’s a huge chunk of our lives. While we all inherently know and understand that working is what we have to do for survival, we aren’t always aware of what spending so much of our time in a miserable job can do to our mental health.

As we learned in Heather’s post yesterday, actively disengaged employees are a huge problem for organizations. The problem isn’t so much that they don’t love what they do, it’s that they drag the organization down and cause productivity and morale problems for the entire staff. They aren’t just bad workers, they are bad for those they work with.


I realize that loving one’s job is a luxury, a privilege too many of us don’t have. But none of us should spend such a large portion of our lives laboring with forced smiles plastered across our faces. We need to find opportunities for fulfillment in the places we spend 8 hours or more a day. Even if we don’t love where we go, or what we do, or who we work alongside while we do it, we need to come away from it with our self-respect intact.

It is easy for me to understand why Mr. Jaskunas was not hired for that teaching position. He probably wouldn’t have been a good fit and there were probably other, more dedicated and enthusiastic candidates for the job. Maybe the person who was eventually hired loved the job. Or maybe they simply tolerated it until something better came along.

Near the end of his op-ed, Dr. Sacks says, “I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work anDalekRegretd my friends.” When you know your time is limited, it’s easier to focus on only the essential. Maybe we can learn something from this—about the importance of our time and how we spend it throughout our lives and consider the areas where we need improvement.

My takeaway from both these articles is this: pay more attention to how you spend your time, in your personal life and at your job. Consider your quality of life. If you have a job or a career you hate, maybe it isn’t for you. You may not ever land your dream job, and you may never find a job that you love, but seek out opportunities to do something that won’t leave you with regrets at the end of your life.

Written b10583892_10152176775975685_7374245496433923175_ny:
Muriel Call
Research Coordinator

Measuring Employee Engagement

Last week we read that employee engagement correlates to the level of commitment, involvement, andUntitled productivity displayed by an employee and by a workforce overall. An employee who is highly engaged or actively engaged would have high involvement, better retention and greater productivity. Gallup describes actively engaged employees as rare: “Engaged workers stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.”

“Contrast this with actively disengaged employees, who are more or less out to damage your company. Not only are they unhappy at work, but they are intent on acting out their unhappiness. They monopolize managers’ time and drive away customers. Whatever engaged employees do — such as solve problems, innovate, and create new customers — actively disengaged employees will work to undermine.”

There are a multitude of ways to define and measure employee engagement, but for now we’ll continue to explore Gallup’s findings as reported in their State of the Workplace Report 2013. Since 2000, Gallup has asked millions of employees across the globe 12 questions designed to determine employee job satisfaction and its correlation to engagement, known as their Q12. Gallup declares that these are “the best predictors of employee and workgroup performance.” Once analyzed, employees are categorized into 3 distinctions, actively engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged.

They are:
I know what is expected of me at work.

I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work.

My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

There is someone at work who encourages my development.

At work, my opinions seem to count.

The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

I have a best friend at work.

In the past six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

In the past year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

dt091125Ideally, employees always check “true” but the “false” answers are more revealing. How do you – and your employees – stack up to these simple 12 questions? What else do you think would measure employee engagement? Is there a better way to assess engagement in your specific workplace? In the coming weeks, we’ll dig in more to employee engagement and look at what drives engagement, what barriers your workplace may have, and several other factors that affect engagement in the workplace. I’m looking forward to exploring this critical topic with you! For more insight on employee engagement, from more of a front line employee perspective, please read Muriel Call’s blogs on the 16 Percent.


Written by:
Heather Harrison
Development Manager

3 Must-Haves for Motivation

I hope everyone got a chance to read Heather’s awesome blog on employee engagement yesterday. It’s a topic that has been much on my mind the last two weeks (it is a current research topic for me). As Heather mentioned, there is a huge employee disengagement problem going on right now and it has had a profound financial impact on organizations. Even worse, disengagement tends to erode morale, negatively impact team dynamics, and threaten innovation.

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In my research on this topic, I frequently find references to the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Drive looks at what motivates us to be high performers and achievers; it isn’t what you’d think. According to the sociological experiments cited in the book, higher pay isn’t the great motivator it is thought to be. In fact, for tasks that demanded a higher level of cognitive skill, higher pay produced a poorer performance. Who knew??
200 (1)Pink lists basic things we need: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Whether at home or at work, we need these things to stay motivated—to feel in control of our own lives, to create and learn new things, and to feel that we are making a difference in the world.

I was struck by this passage:

“The most successful people, the evidence shows, often aren’t directly pursuing conventional notions of success. They’re working hard and persisting through difficulties because of their internal desire to control their lives, learn about the world, and accomplish something that endures.”

This is a spot-on assessment, at least in my experience. Have you known people who were never satisfied for long with any job, even jobs that provided many opportunities for professional growth and development, even if they liked the job and their co-workers, and even if they had a decent salary, because they wanted, but didn’t necessarily need, a higher salary? For many of us, money is the only measure of success and we think it is what we need to be happy. I’ve known people to go from job to job in search of ever more money because that was the only need they focused on, at the expense of their other needs. No matter how much we feel our skills are worth, sometimes a job that meets those three basic needs Pink mentions is where we will be the happiest, most productive, and most engaged, and where we will find the type of contentment that money can’t buy.

This being said, I will freely admit that the need for autonomy is sometimes the most difficult need to meet. I have spent the last decade and a half working in libraries—a field that offers many opportunities to learn and endless intellectual rewards but few financial ones (I know you thought librarians were in it for the money, right??). What made me stay in those jobs where I barely made enough to cover rent was my dedication to the overall mission of libraries and my desire to make a difference in the lives of others. However, I have had to turn down a few jobs that I felt I would have loved because they didn’t pay the minimum I needed to support myself. This almost certainly would have ended up making me not love those jobs eventually. Being adequately compensated is a must before you can focus on your other needs.

Mastery and purpose come more easily if a) you are compensated with what you need to take care of yourself and your family and b) you have a leader who will help you meet these needs by providing opportunities for growth and learning and who will instill a real sense of the organization’s mission. These needs have been easier for me to meet, typically. Even in jobs I didn’t like, I still felt driven to acquire and master new skills and was always driven to do the work in a way that would cause me no regrets down the road. My purpose in any job is always tied to my own personal goals of doing my best and learning new things, whenever possible. But with bad leadership, it’s difficult to maintain a high level of engagement, no matter your personal work ethic because your basic needs won’t be met. If you have a leader who can help you align your personal goals with the overall mission of the organization, as well as encourage you to hone your skills, you’ll find yourself not only engaged at a high level, but performing at a high level.


Written b10583892_10152176775975685_7374245496433923175_ny:
Muriel Call
Research Coordinator

Employee Engagement and the Positive Approach

Together, we previously looked into the field of positive psychology, a field of study that focuses on the positive in life. Psychologists declare that happiness precedes success for individuals, both at work and at home, so let us pose this question: does happiness at work drive greater productivity? (Tweet This) Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report, which looks at employee engagement data from 2009 to 2012 at workplaces across the world, categorizes workers into three areas: engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged. Gallup describes engaged employees as pretty happy people who “work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.”

Gallup’s CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton puts the good stuff in the report up front. The findings show what good managers have known for decades: “Trying to get employees to fix their weaknesses doesn’t work. Weaknesses can’t be developed much at all — but employees’ strengths can be developed infinitely. The problem is, too many companies focus on fixing weaknesses, and this only breeds non-engagement or, worse, active disengagement. No company or country will win the economic World Cup with this approach. Great managers build development plans around every employee’s strengths. (Tweet This) When employees work from strengths, nothing motivates them to achieve more — not money, not love, not vacations, not good benefits, not company volleyball games, not motivational speakers. And employees working from their strengths do win new customers.”

This is huge, managers. Employee engagement – which correlates to involvement, commitment and productivity – relies on your positive approach to your employees. We’ll unpack this more in coming weeks.

Other research states that “happy” people get more work done. And it’s of better quality. Managers, please listen: your employees will be more successful in their goals and assignments from you if they are happy. We know that You cannot make your employees “happy,” so they must choose and pursue that for themselves! But there are some things you can do.

First, be an example yourself. How are you perceived by your employees and co-workers? Consider asking one who you trust. Prepare yourself to be humbled.

Next, take stock of the “happy” in your workplace environment. Do you greet each of your employees, each day? Are professionally appropriate personal relationships evident (sharing of each other’s lives)? Are people smiling? Do you feel like you know your employees? What is the tone during your staff meetings? What does customer service look like, both internally and externally? (if you say, “Ha! Schmustomer Smervice, please contact SGR’s Krisa Delacruz to set up some customer service classes!) When there are changes, budget cuts, deadlines, is it the end of the world? What is sick leave and vacation usage like? (By the way, happier and more productive people adapt to change more easily, use less sick leave, and they take vacations.)

After your assessment of your personal state of the workplace, imagine what you’d like your home away from home to be like. For you, what would the ideal workplace look like, sound like, and feel like? (Tweet This) If it’s within your power, make those changes! Knock down walls, literally and figuratively!

Lastly, don’t give up on pursuing a happier workplace when things don’t turn around immediately or obstacles are met. I hear all too often, “yeah, if Upper Management/Council/my Boss would do xyz, then we’d be able to be happier.” Lead from where You are. You’ll have more impact than you know.


Written by:
Heather Harrison
Development Manager

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