Why employee engagement is not a myth

Why Employee Engagement is NOT a myth

Divya BhatDivya Bhat | April 12, 2016

Who would have thought someday I’d get to use one of Mary Angelou’s quotes in an article I’d be writing about “Employee Engagement”! But then again, who would have thought someday I would be writing about ‘Employee Engagement” at all! Ha!

To say ‘life is full of surprises’ is possibly THE most used clichés, but so what – Truth, it is. I work in an organization that went beyond my resume and trusted me with this job (which- if you knew me you’d know- I love it!). So, wouldn’t you agree that it is but natural that I write about what I now feel so strongly about!

Coming back to Ms. Lou- she said, “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach for hearts is wise ”. If you – Dear Reader – are a business head, you might want to sit back and spend the next 5 or so minutes understanding the need for nurturing an army of happy employees – because as much as you might have your monetary goals to accomplish business-wise, none of that will see the light of the day if all you breed as employees is a bunch of grouchy wolverines!

STUDIES ON EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT:

Let’s start with the latest statistics. In one of the most recent studies in Academy of Management Perspectives, Alex Edmans, affirms a solid link between employee satisfaction and profitability after studying 28 years of data. He found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperform their peers by 2.3% to 3.8% per year in long-run stock returns. He also rightly points out in his article here that the results stand in contrast to conventional wisdom where investing in employee engagement is regarded as an additional expense. The study proves that higher employee engagement results in higher profits and not the contrary – higher profits encourage companies to invest in employee engagement.

Here’s a Ted talk by Alex Edmans you might be interested in:

 

PSYCHOLOGY & EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT:

Right. So that’s the management-research-statistics side of it. Now, coming to the other side of the coin – Psychology. If employee engagement is all about making sure your employees are happy to be working with you, shouldn’t you know the science behind what makes a person happy or not?

The “feel-good neurotransmitters” like dopamine and serotonin are closely connected to positive emotions. Gratitude, appreciation, surprise and a sense of community all lead to a rise in these happy chemicals and in turn, they make us feel good. But what you may not have known is the fact that it is also a function of these chemicals to increase learning in our brains, help retain and organize new information, aid in thinking more innovatively and equips us with the ability to analyse complex information and solve problems more easily!

“Gratitude, appreciation, surprise & a sense of community all lead to a rise in these happy chemicals and in turn, they make us feel good.”

Let’s put it this way, if there were a pill available in the market to make employees more perky, intelligent, creative, perceptive and competent would you not have invested in it? Why treat employee engagement programmes any differently, then?

THE SAD REALITY vs. THE SIMPLE SOLUTION

The most expensive mistake that most businessmen end up making is excluding the emotional quotient while managing their enterprise. Be it within or outside the company, one sure shot way to establish a seamless relationship with people is by engaging in a genuine bond with them. Most companies only look at their employees as resources, dehumanizing them to their own peril.

It sure is one way to go about things where micro-management rules, where no employee develops a sense of ownership and passion for what he does, consequently, whether you like it or not it will impact their productivity and the company’s overall performance. Would you believe that 70% of workers in the U.S. are disengaged, and these workers cost the U.S. up to $550 billion per year in lost productivity? You should, if you go by the study conducted by Good.co.

“Most companies look at their employees as resources, dehumanizing them to their own peril and this affects their productivity immensely”.

In contrast, when you value your employees and entrust them with a sense of ownership, they will but naturally feel a sense of duty and responsibility. According to Good.co, ‘Happy employees have 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales and 3 times more creativity. ‘ And all of those three factors could translate to higher revenues for your business. Tom Peters sums it up just right- “The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”

GET THE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT SURVEY TO UNDERSTAND HOW GOOD AN EMPLOYER YOU ARE

 

THE REEBOK-CROSSFIT BOX STORY

While researching on this topic, I came across a lot of engagement strategies employed by various companies to make sure their employees are motivated to go that extra mile. But for reasons you can ignore, I found this one particularly impressive:

They’re a smart bunch to have addressed the much-ignored fact that a sound mind can only live in a fit body. (And it always pays to have a sound-minded person as an employee, don’t you agree?) So, taking it to the next level, Reebok introduced its “CrossFit Box” initiative in an attempt to get its employees fit. Their mission was to get consumers moving by setting an example with its own workforce. And in this pursuit, in 2010, Reebok partnered with the California-based workout brand CrossFit and converted one of their warehouses into a CrossFit workout hub dedicated exclusively to the employees at Reebok. One year later, a collective weight loss of over 4000 pounds was recorded by all the participants. Since then, biggies like Google have also expressed their interest in setting up something similar in their campuses too!

I find this impressive because:

• Reebok addressed a burning lifestyle issue. It transformed and enriched the lives of its employees.
• They were not simply promoting an image to the customers without implementing it within the organisation. They practised what they preached.
• They changed the definition of employee engagement by taking it to a whole new level.
• The gain wasn’t monetary but something much more valuable than that- health.

THE ‘DISCRETIONARY EFFORT’ ADVANTAGE

Another extremely efficient way of doing things with zero investment is to cash in on discretionary effort. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, let me sum it up for you simply. Discretionary effort is the difference between wanting to do something and having to do it. The sense of obligation attached to performing one’s task almost always sucks up the passion he could be feeling towards doing it.

When you stimulate your employees’ intrinsic motivation, he will WANT to walk that extra mile and he does it voluntarily. And this is only possible when he feels responsible for what he is doing, when he recognizes the fact that his work is valuable and he is important to the organization. History is the best teacher when it comes to proving that a fear-based ideology will only give birth to a revolution! Positive reinforcement alone can give birth to this behavioural change in employees, motivating them to work harder and perform better and if need be even stay up longer without expecting any return.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT= INCREASED PROFITS

If, at this point, you see what we mean then you might also be wondering “So, why should I make sure my employees are happy or engaged? What’s in it for me?”

Think about it like this. Stripping down all the jargon, you have employed your workforce to accomplish their respective tasks so that it translates into revenue for you. Now, if you are a customer-facing company, you don’t want your customers greeted by the grouchy wolverine we discussed earlier, do you? You want someone amiable. Can you fake a pleasant comportment? You really cannot. So if you want your customer-facing staff to genuinely interact with your customers, you have to make sure that they feel motivated to it. You need to have an emotional connect with your employees and only then will they have one with the customers.

As Kevin Kruse, author of the book “Employee Engagement 2.0 ” puts it, we can understand the progression like this:

We highly recommend that you read this article written by him to understand how statistics across all metrics suggests that employee engagement is an advantage to you.

We’ve taken you through statistical proof. We’ve explained to you the chemistry behind how the brain defines and manifests “happiness”. We’ve also given you a solid example of a meaningful engagement can transform the lives of employees. But none of this might make as much as an impact as giving you a reality check of where you stand in your employee engagement strategies.

We, at Cloudcherry, (much like Reebok) try not to talk the talk unless we walk the walk, and as a relatively new employee, I have found from my experience here that the following factors are what contribute to me wanting to give it my all and more, when I arrive at work each day:

• The bunch of people I call colleagues. These are all people I would love to hang out with, even if it were outside the office
• The scary yet empowering trust that is tacitly handed over when you are hired
• The liberty to take risks and the willingness to experiment
• The recognition and appreciation given as and when it is due
• The celebration of accomplishments- no matter how big or small
• The positive and constructive feedback
• The banter, the enthusiasm and the sense of belonging to a tribe- nothing compares to this one!

As I write down all these points, I have absolutely no fear of contradiction from any of my co-workers. They will all agree and perhaps have a couple of more points to add. This has only been possible because right from the recruitment process, CloudCherry is sensitive to the fact that culture is paramount. Anyone can find the right resource, but finding the right member to join the tribe calls for a lot more than just the resume!

The question is – Can you vouch for the fact that your employees are this happy with your company? DO they appear at work every morning with a smile, pumped up about contributing to the company’s well being? If one of your employees were to be offered a job with a massive hike, can you be absolutely sure that he will turn it down simply because he belongs to your tribe?

Empathize with your employees and enhance their work experience NOW!