There’s a reason business leaders list Employee Engagement among their most pressing concerns: despite small advances reported by Gallup, a whopping 2/3 of the workforce remains disengaged. Disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and 15% lower profitability. That’s a hit of about 34% of a disengaged employee's annual salary, or $3,400 for every $10,000 they make. So that complacency is costly. Too costly not to address.
What makes fixing the employee engagement problem so challenging? “The biggest challenge to engaging employees,” according to Leapgen CEO and co-founder Jason Averbook, “is FOCUS.”
We have thousands of ways to “engage” the workforce, but Human Resources remains structured in siloed Centers of Excellence. This means different teams are responsible for engaging at moments that matter to THEM - Talent Acquisition is focused on engaging during the recruitment and hiring process, Performance Management is focused on engaging when it’s time to review performance, Learning & Development is focused on delivering engaging learning content - but there is a diluted overall focus because people don’t know where and how the overall business needs to best engage its workforce.
Leadership fosters Engagement
Besides a lack of focus, employee engagement also suffers when there is a lack of leadership. Engagement problems are usually not an individual employee issue; engagement, or lack thereof, is a systemic leadership issue. We don’t know how to be great people leaders because we’re not TAUGHT leadership in business. And organizational leadership is not easy: we have a globally and culturally diverse cross-section of no less than five generations working in today’s active workforce. With a growing need to help the workforce thrive in change and flux, truly great people leadership will only get harder.
HR can’t take this on by itself. There needs to be a partnership with the business to address engagement opportunities. This starts in standardizing and focusing our definition of engagement. HR uses “catch-all” descriptions when they describe engagement in the organization. We need to use better, more specific language to describe where the business is falling short in meeting its talent strategy and business strategy initiatives. There’s not one big engagement problem; there are pockets of specific issues within the organization that are causing employees in that area to disengage. Get specific.
The role of Technology
What is the role of workforce technology in solving this business problem? To understand that, we need to first understand the difference between digital (which asks why) and technology (which explains how). To create a more engaged, worker-focused organization, organizations need to align around a common, unified, top-down vision that clearly explains the problem and the way you want to solve it. “I want to take this part of the workforce and get them here. I want to address this kind of worker and get them here.” With this kind of clarity and from a digital-first mindset, we can better apply the right technology in the way it can be best leveraged as fuel for the experience you need to deliver to the workforce.
Tackle employee engagement with FOCUS, with clarity of VISION supported by LEADERSHIP, and supported by sharpened EXECUTION strategy. If you can’t articulate the problem you’re trying to solve and where you’re trying to go in 30 seconds or less, STOP<SIMPLIFY<CLARIFY. Take the time to figure it out before you act, or you’re just trying to boil the ocean.
Watch Jason Averbook with Jason Lauritsen on igniting the secret to Employee Engagement. No more scattering of engagement definitions, programs, and strategies. Be more specific, get alignment and focus around one problem, and execute defined solutions.