According to Gallup, the ratio of engaged to disengaged workers drives the financial outcomes of any organization. More than 42 independent Gallup studies indicate that only one in four employees is engaged at work. A full 75 percent of the workforce of most companies is not fully engaged on the job. Even more disturbing, as much as 19 percent of a company’s workforce is actively disengaged. And the costs of disengagement are staggering. Estimates run as high as $350 billion annually to U.S. businesses alone. Part of that cost is the impact that disengaged employees have on customer retention and customer engagement.
In recent surveys of the key leaders of two Fortune 50 companies, less than 15 percent of those polled reported that they brought their best energy and full engagement to work. Twenty-two percent reported significant levels of disengagement. The reasons people typically give for being disengaged involve negative work conditions, such as insensitive bosses, divisive office politics or lack of constructive performance feedback. Eliminating the causes of disengagement, however, does not necessarily lead to higher levels of engagement. Removing toxic work conditions simply gets employees to neutral.
Investing one’s best at work is deeply personal and is best understood in terms of four dimensions of energy. (See Figure 1.) Physical engagement means that employees have sufficient energy reserves to meet the demands they face. This is accomplished by eating right, sleeping right, exercising right and getting adequate rest. This is engaging the body and is the foundation for all engagement. Emotional engagement means employees bring a sense of hope, opportunity and positivism to the daily storms of work. This is engaging the heart. Mental engagement means employees bring focus, clear thinking and realism to the workplace. This is engaging the head. Spiritual engagement means employees bring a sense of purpose, passion, commitment, character and integrity to work everyday. Engaging the spirit is the most important element in the engagement process.
When employees’ values and beliefs are aligned with those of the company, when they focus their energy on those things that truly drive the mission, when they summon the emotions that serve the mission and when they act in ways that are consistent with the mission, the powerful forces of alignment and full engagement become available.
Clearly, chief learning officers must become engagement experts. Here are four recommendations to engage the organizational culture:
- Consider engagement a business-critical technology that must be taught. The more employees understand engagement, the better equipped they will be to manage it.
- Develop best practices for enhancing engagement and conduct surveys to determine whether these practices are working.
- Help employees understand why engagement is so important to them. What is needed is a win-win—related to job security, health, happiness, promotion, etc.
- Develop a business model that reflects the multi-dimensional challenges of engagement. Decisions about learning should be made within that larger business model, with employee engagement as a central consideration.
Jim Loehr and Jack Groppel are co-founders of LGE Performance Systems. Both are pioneers in the field of performance science and have coached thousands of people in business, law enforcement, health care, education and sport. E-mail Jim and Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org.