Feedback Digest: 3 articles to kick-start your weekBy Jesse Goldman on October 4, 2010 in Thought Leadership
Our theme of the week is employee engagement. A number of recent studies show that the key to bigger profits is your ability to create a more engaging culture.
With all the talk about how important employee engagement is, it’s always great to see hard data to back up the point.
The Gallup study conducted on 1000s of business units at lots of companies found a direct relationship between employee engagement and business results.
- There’s a 16% difference in profitability between the most engaged business units and the least.
- Turnover differs by up to 50%
The authors of the study recommend a number of things managers can do to better engage their employees, including:
- “[Managers] can provide timely and specific feedback when employees achieve outcomes so they know what they contributed and why it’s important to the organization.”
- “Great managers give employees direction, of course, but they also understand where their employees are at right now and how they can help them become great in their current role – and help them see where they can be in the future.”
Another reason to check out this article is the “12 Elements of Great Managing.” Based on thousands of interviews, these are the statements Gallup found to best predict employee and workgroup performance. My favorites are:
- “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.”
- “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”
- “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.”
In TLNT, Ron Thomas provides a great overview of what it takes to be a leader, and it’s not being bossy, intimidating, arrogant or dismissive. It’s the soft skills like interpersonal strength and self-awareness. Thomas cites a recent study, “What Predicts Executive Success?” that found: “that conventional wisdom is wrong — and that leaders who possess strong soft skills perform better at driving hard results.” (It’s a refreshing read.)
Thomas writes that the best way to drive engagement is to actually (and proactively) engage people. I agree. It’s stuff like speaking with them, listening, and sharing feedback regularly. Not only would this make it easier to capture ideas when they’re top of mind, but it would help leaders quickly identify blind spots and bright spots, and make better decisions. And it’s a great way to engage and develop future leadership: simply being asked for one’s opinion can be a real motivator (McKinsey found that “attention from leaders” is more effective than cash bonuses).
Margaret Heffernan, “Serial CEO” on BNET reports that:
“Fewer than 20 percent of U.S. employees say they are passionate about their work. In no industry does that number rise above 25 percent. That doesn’t mean the rest hate their jobs, just that they don’t really engage.”
Yikes! What’s a manager to do? Are these dismal engagement figures due to bad hiring, bad leadership, or something else? According to Heffernan:
“In my experience around the world, companies can hire passionate people — but they rarely manage to sustain their passion. Process, bureaucracy and desire to reduce risk at all costs simply bleed the creativity, passion and energy out of good people who came in wanting to do a great job.”
Considering the findings of the two studies mentioned above, is it time to take an even closer look at managers’ soft skills like feedback, communication and self awareness? I’d focus on changes to these behaviors before personnel changes.
As Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company magazine, put it in a recent Harvard Business Review Blogs post: “You can’t be special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace.”
Do you think employee engagement really is that important?