There is enough research on Employee Engagement to show that engaged employees give more “discretionary effort” (going above and beyond job expectations…without being told/asked) to their employer. Yet levels of engagement have not changed over the last ten years or so, through a period first of boom, then of bust.
Consider this data from the Gallup organization. They surveyed around percent of employees who are (1) engaged, (2) not engaged, and (3) actively disengaged. Check the trend since the year 2000:
2000 – 26%/56%/18%
2008 – 29%/51%/20%
2010 – 28%/53%/19%
2011 – 29%/52%/19%
You got it. There is no trend, unless you consider flatlining to be a trend. The economy doesn’t seem to affect the level of engagement of the mass of employees. But we do know what does.
To quote Gallup’s James Harter, “What remains constant is the need to be connected, to a manager, a co-worker and/or a purpose, and also the need to be recognized.”
Yup, you’ve heard it before but it bears repeated repeating. Your engaged employees are those who feel some degree of emotional connection to the work of the enterprise and the outcomes it has for people somewhere on this globe. Furthermore, not only do they need to believe that the work of the organization matters but also they need to see how the job they do is a part of this. In other words that their personal job matters. In other words, that they themselves matter.
So the question for managers is how can we help our employees see a direct line of sight between (1) what they do day in and day out and (2) the ultimate difference made in the lives of others. Work this question. Talk it over in your management meetings and build it into your strategic planning discussions. It is not always obvious.
If your people can’t make out clearly that line of sight, they will remain, at best, marginally engaged and will continue to do “enough” work to retain their employment status and compensation…through booms and busts.