As we’ve previously discussed, disengaged employees aren’t just wasting an organization’s time. In the United States where a staggering 70% of employees report being disengaged from their work, 19% are going one step further and actively sabotaging their employers’ efforts. Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the economy $450 billion annually.
Today’s organizations frequently implement workplace “perks” designed to increase engagement. They offer monthly massages. They put in a game room with pool tables or pinball. They cater a weekly lunch. While these organizations are striving to create a culture of engagement, research has told us that these quick-fix approaches can actually have the opposite effect on employees at all levels of an organization.
Why? Because employee engagement is driven by organizational culture, rather than money, perks, or workplace well-being initiatives. And organizations that focus on surface areas of employee engagement that are easy to fix run the risk of having those efforts serve only as an example of the disconnect between high-level managers and the needs of the average employee.
What Do Employees Need to Feel Engaged at Work?
There are two main elements that every employee needs to feel engaged in his or her work. When the organizational culture meets those needs, business problems like disengagement decrease and productivity increases.
Most employers assume that monetary compensation is the primary factor that motivates employee engagement. While monetary compensation can be a contributing factor to workplace satisfaction, it is not the most significant measure.
More than anything, employees want to understand how their daily efforts contribute to their employers’ broader goals. Unfortunately, only 41% of today’s employees report knowing what their organizations stand for and how their roles contribute to the overall organizational mission. That means that the organizational culture in 59% of organizations is actively harming employee engagement.
While monetary compensation can contribute to an employee’s level of satisfaction, employees who have reached a certain salary level are increasingly motivated by opportunities to grow and develop as professionals. Research has shown that employees who are given continuous development opportunities at work are twice as likely to be loyal to their employers.
How Can Leaders Foster an Organizational Culture of Engagement?
Organizations that successfully engage their employees offer opportunities for continuous learning and development. Very few, if any, employees want to perform the same tasks day after day for the remainder of their careers. Individuals at every level have an intrinsic desire to learn and grow. Organizations that tap into this inborn desire by offering mentoring, goal-oriented feedback, and opportunities for advancement are best able to engage and retain a team of highly motivated employees.
Our experience shows us that communication is key to developing an organizational culture of engagement. The Clearing’s research into employee motivation tells us that the best leaders find ways to speak to an employee’s head and heart in addition to their wallet. Traditional management techniques have overlooked the heart as an important motivator, driving both creativity and passion in the workplace. Using empathy and ennoblement, organizational leaders have the ability to connect an individual’s work to the organization’s mission and its positive impact on the world beyond.
Finally, organizations must consider a top-down approach to engagement. Gallup’s research tells us that “a leader’s engagement directly affects managers’ engagement and manager engagement, in turn, directly influences employee engagement.” Disengaged leaders breed disengaged managers and employees, so fostering a high level of engagement among leaders is the foundation upon which to build an engaged and productive workforce.
The Clearing has a long history of helping public, private, and non-profit organizations develop cultures that promote engagement and strengthen workplace connections. Contact our experts to request a consultation for your business.