Recently, in an executive program on leadership, a professor elicited a lot of laughs by telling the following joke: “A CEO was asked how many people work in his company: ‘About half of them,’ he responded.” After the session, several participants put a more serious face on the problem when, while chatting, they bemoaned the fact that, in their organization, a significant number of people had mentally “checked out.” To paraphrase these dis-engaged employees precisely you can say, “Never mistake activity for accomplishment.”
Quite clearly, CEOs and managers should be very much concerned about the waste of time, effort and such resources in their organizations. The reason is simple: If employees are not engaged, how can these leaders attain those business objectives that are critical to improving organizational performance?
But, what exactly is employee engagement? Is it employee happiness? Is it employee satisfaction? Or it is something more than all of this? A bigger and more compelling question is: How much more productive is an engaged workforce compared to a non-engaged workforce? Let’s learn answers for each of these questions one by one.
What is employee engagement?
Some of our leaders have defined employee engagement very accurately.
Sushil Rajeshirke, CEO of Conexstra Technologies Pvt. Ltd. defined employee engagement as: “Transformation of employee feelings from "thank God, it's a Friday to thank God, it's a Monday".
Tim Rutledge, author of Getting Engaged: The New Workplace Loyalty quoted that truly engaged employees are attracted to, and inspired by, their work (“I want to do this”), committed (“I am dedicated to the success of what I am doing”), and fascinated (“I love what I am doing”). Engaged employees care about the future of the company and are willing to invest the discretionary effort – exceeding duty’s call – to see that the organization succeeds.In short, employee engagement is getting up in the morning thinking, “Great, I’m going to work.
I know what I’m going to do today. I’ve got some great ideas about how to do it well. I’m looking forward to seeing the team and helping them work well today”. Employee engagement is about understanding one’s role in an organization, and being sighted and energized on where it fits in the organization’s purpose and objectives.
Is it employee happiness and employee satisfaction?
The answer is NO. When you say, “Employee satisfaction”, a satisfied employee might show up for daily 9-to-5 without any complaint. But that same "satisfied" employee might not go an extra mile on his own for the organization, and he'll probably any day take the headhunter's call luring his away with a 10% bump in pay. So, yes employee satisfaction is never enough.
Talking about employee happiness, while company game rooms, free massages, and Friday keg parties are fun and can keep many of them happy at the workplace, but this does not mean that this can motivate your workforce to work harder on behalf of the organization. This means, that keeping employees happy is different from keeping them engaged.
How much different is an engaged workforce compared to a non-engaged workforce?
So, what's the conclusion?
Practitioners and academics have argued that competitive advantage can be gained by creating an engaged workforce. Leaders should actively try to identify the level of engagement in their organization, find the reasons behind the lack of full engagement, strive to eliminate those reasons and implement behavioral strategies that will facilitate full engagement. These efforts should be ongoing. Employee engagement is hard to achieve and if not sustained by leaders it can wither with relative ease.
If you haven’t been taking employee engagement seriously in your strategic implementation, why not? Instead of trying to keep employees happy or just keep them around- organizations must actively engage employees in creating their future and their usefulness within the organization- especially in a time when no one can afford the costly loss of employees.