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Employee Engagement: The Key to Secure Long-Term Competitive Advantage

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While the correlation between an engaged workforce and better bottom-line results seems obvious today – and the days of Machiavellian management long gone – it is still surprising and impressive to know that companies with high employee engagement have a nearly 150% higher earnings per share vs. their competition.

Not just that, they also have higher safety, healthier and happier employees, higher employee & customer retention and loyalty, better customer service and quality, higher productivity, sales, profitability and share price.

When the benefits are this compelling, how exactly can you ensure that you are a top employer with high employee engagement and not the lagging competition?

In our experience, managers who want to increase their team engagement - not just conduct surveys year after year - can start to gain benefits by understanding two fundamental points: 1) what are engaged employees and 2) what drives employee engagement.

The first “what are engaged employee?” – seems almost too basic, but we hear managers saying: “in a time of such uncertainty, is that even something that matters?” And “all employees are unhappy right now, so I can’t be bothered to think about their happiness.” So it’s important to understand that engagement is not happiness.

It is the intrinsic motivation that greatly influences behavior and level of effort.

Engaged employees are those employees who feel an emotional connection toward the organization. They are the ones who feel part of something bigger than themselves, and therefore, work as stakeholders invested in the outcome, going the extra mile on a regular basis to get things done without any drama.

Given the heightened cost-pressure to do more with less, and for those managing remotely – having the increased need to have trusted team members who get the job done right with less supervision – it is even more impactful and important to have engaged employees today.

So then what drives employee engagement? The drivers of employee engagement are simply the basic human needs - these include: 4) safety, 3) meaning, 2) growth and 1) connection – ranked from 4 to 1, with 1 being the most impactful.

Google confirmed drivers of engagement

 

Interestingly, Google confirmed this exact finding with "Project Aristotle."

Studying 180 teams, Google conducted 200+ interviews, and analyzed over 250 different team attributes to understand what successful teams have in common.

The top four most important attributes are the SAME as our basic human needs!

The good news is that most leading companies already have some processes in place that can support managers to increase team engagement in terms of safety, meaning and growth and don’t require additional resources to incentivize employees with expensive perks – i.e. colorful spaces and fancy coffee – as well as useless and costly workshops and team building events.

Specifically, here tangible ways to increase your team engagement:

4)  For SAFETY: the goal-setting process can help managers set clear expectations. This is more difficult to define in dynamic environments, but it is absolutely better to have clear expectations defined, even with the understanding that they will need to be revisited and revised, versus not having any at all.

3)  For MEANING: managers can uncover and live their tribe’s authentic core values leveraging corporate vision & mission statements as a starting point. With their team, they can dig deeper to uncover what values are most important for the team and area, asking “who” we are and “why” do we exist, beyond making money and find tangible ways to reinforce these values in their work. For example Philip Morris' core value: "defending the right to personal freedom of choice, including the freedom of choice to smoke." – For sure there is no right or wrong. Authentic is better than sounding good.

2)  For GROWTH: the company's annual review process can support managers to review the prior year performance and take the time to look forward, assess the trajectory to define a mid-term growth target for each team member. Lack of growth opportunities is the No. 2 reason people leave their jobs, so this is absolutely time worth spending. Sometimes it is hard for managers to offer additional growth opportunities and to see their team members move on...but in the long-run, nothing good comes from holding someone back.

Of the four needs, the need for CONNECTION with the manager is the No. 1 driver of employee engagement, and in fact, the No. 1 reason people quit their job is dissatisfaction with the relationship with the direct boss. The relationship with the direct boss is SO important that engagement can vary by up to 70% from manager to manager in the same organization. While most people don't know these statistics, everyone knows from their own experience the tremendous impact a manager has.

So for this most important driver of engagement, how can managers ensure connection?

Well, while we connect with people in our lives on a breadth of topics, connection at work is based on very narrow and specific set of attributes, based on the two individual’s compatibility for working together. People who are compatible just have an easier time depending on and trusting each other to deliver and succeed.

Intuitively, this is what most people try to assess as early as in the interview process. “Hire for attitude” is all about trying to make sure that the “attitude” is the right compatible fit.  

Top performing companies, who go beyond guess-work and gut-feel, are implementing bias-free analytics to easily and accurately assess which individuals naturally work well together to increase engagement for the long-term. What are you doing?


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