One of the hottest topics in human resource management right now is Employee Engagement. Studies consistently show that falling levels of Employee Engagement are directly correlated with lower productivity, higher absenteeism, and higher turn-over.
A recent global study involving 44,000 respondents conducted by PwC (http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/hr-management-services/pdf/pwc-nextgen-study-2013.pdf) found the following broad categories of factors contributed significantly to Employee Engagement:
- Balance and Workload
- Engaging Work
- People & Teams (the work “community”)
- Competitive Pay and Opportunities
The “sleeper” in this list is “Engaging Work”, because it is so hard to define. And yet, on a recent search I conducted for a Director of Marketing, when I asked a candidate why he was open to considering a change from his good job with a growing company, he said “I can’t figure out the ‘why’ of my current employer.”
Our most engaged employees believe in the vision of their employers, and why their work matters to the broader collective good. This is entirely consistent with the comment of Deepak Chopra (University of Chicago) that “the purpose of a business is to improve the quality of life on the planet”. Michael Porter has noted in his recent work on strategy that profit as the sole determinant of organizational success is a narrow view of success and that how you make it matters – a purpose that is based on helping others or improving some condition on the planet should be an element in strategy.
So, just for fun, if you are the CEO of a large corporation, the supervisor of the accounts receivable team, or an entrepreneur with 10 employees, why not ask these 3 questions at your next meeting:
- Who are we?
- What do we do?
- Why is it important/why does it matter?
The first question may seem self-evident. The second question will probably elicit a list of tasks. By the time you get to the third, you will start getting to the heart of matter. Ideally, this will lead to a discussion of how significantly your team contributes to the achievement of the company’s vision. This in turn will generate further discussion on the second question, redefining it from a bunch of tasks to list of important outcomes. It should also lead back to the first question, redefining it towards your corporate vision and Unique Value Proposition.
If your employees get the connection between their daily outcomes and the corporate vision which they believe in, engagement will automatically increase, and with it productivity and retention. Just like the story of the stone workers in the middle ages: when asked what they were doing, one said grumpily “I’m chipping rocks.” The other replied passionately “I’m helping build a cathedral which will inspire worshipers for centuries.”
If they believe in the “why”, the “how” will become self-evident, and you will be on the right track towards Employee Engagement.