Question: In a bacon and eggs breakfast, what’s the difference between the Chicken and the Pig?
Answer: The Chicken is involved, but the Pig is committed.
In any workplace there is a clear distinction between disengaged employees – those who may or may not be involved in achieving company initiatives – and engaged employees – those who are passionately committed to the organization. This difference is evident in matters of productivity, creativity, job satisfaction, customer service and communication. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, highlighted this distinction when he said, “[T]here are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow.” Mr. Welch understood the importance of employee engagement, but what is it exactly? Why does it matter? How can leaders help associates achieve and maintain it?
What is Employee Engagement?
The Gallup Organization defines “engaged” employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic and committed to their work, plus contribute to their organization in a positive manner. It goes beyond happy or satisfied employees. A happy employee most likely enjoys a company game room, free chair massages and tickets to the baseball game, but that does not equate to whether they will go that extra mile for the organization.
Like the chicken, satisfied employees might be involved. They may provide appropriately-timed bobble-head nods or may survive a meeting with pumpkin-carved grins, but they are not emotionally committed to achieving company initiatives. While satisfied employees may have the window dressing of engaged associates, these folks are often the same ones monitoring the daily job postings on Monster.com, attempting to inconspicuously jump on Facebook and Instagram numerous times a day, or checking what Lindsey Lohan just tweeted about Justin Bieber.
Engaged employees don’t just show up, do the minimum required, collect their paychecks and go home. Instead, they are emotionally committed to the organization and the achievement of its goals; they are relational, care about themselves and others, have well-defined roles, make strong contributions, and are continuously trying to better themselves and the company.
The bottom line is that most employees at some level appreciate the perks, but engaged employees have a passionate connection to their work and their company. This connection is what sparks the additional discretionary efforts and levels of engagement that make an incredibly positive difference for them and the company. Compensation and benefits matter, but when it comes to engagement, these shakers yearn for a strong sense of purpose, opportunities for personal and professional growth, a reasonable level of autonomy and a sense of being affiliated with something greater than themselves.
The differences these individuals make to an organization are dramatic.
Why It Matters
For openers, engaged employees significantly impact the bottom line. Examples include the following:
An additional benefit to the bottom line is lower health care costs. How? There is a strong correlation between engaged associates and better health because engaged employees typically exercise more and have noticeable healthier diets. They are also far less likely to have chronic illnesses. Specifically, Gallup discovered employees who are thriving in overall wellbeing have These are profound savings for employers in terms of productivity and health care costs.
Another gem of an engaged employee is the significant difference when she connects emotionally with a customer. When Gallup studied the effects of combining customer and employee engagement, firms experienced a 240 percent boost in performance-related business outcomes compared with those companies with neither engaged employees nor engaged customers.
How Can I Get/Keep These Engaged Employees?
While the benefits – direct and indirect – of engaged employees are clear, it is not easy to achieve a workforce of engaged employees. If it were easy, there obviously would not be the significant differences between organizations embracing a culture of engagement versus those that do not. Studies show only 20-34 percent of employees are engaged.
What does it take to get employees to feel connected and a part of something significant? Here are five things that have worked for my company:
For them to reach deeper, provide more and become what they were created to do, employees want to have an emotional connection to their work and their company. This connection is what inspires them to put forth the extra efforts to achieve extraordinary results. This passion can be unleashed if an organization makes the commitment to invest in its employees.
Bob Pruitt is President of Cal-Tex Protective Coatings. Cal-Tex provides over 40 interior and exterior protective products to thousands of auto dealers nationwide. Cal-Tex has been named as one of the “Best Places to Work” in the San Antonio area for the last four years, received the AACE award for employee communications from the ESOP Association, and has been recognized as an Inc. Magazine “Top Small Company Workplace.” www.ctpc.com
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