Carolina Business Articles
How To Assess Employee Engagement
DIY Without Spending A Dime.
By Charles and Susan Robinson
Research has brought to light the correlation between employee engagement and profitability, and the first step to improving employee engagement in your company is knowing where you stand.
Over a 25-year period, Gallup studied over 80,000 managers and over a million employees and found that employee engagement - a feeling of emotional connection to the company - affects performance, retention, and productivity. A 2002 survey by the global consulting firm Watson-Wyatt Worldwide found that organizations with a highly engaged workforce out-performed those with low commitment by 47% in 2000 and by a whopping 200% in 2002.
But how can you assess employee engagement without spending a small fortune? Employee surveys, interviews, and focus groups can yield skewed results if employees mistrust the confidentiality of the instruments. Surveys and interviews can also backfire, increasing discontent by setting up false expectations. And the results of these assessment tools only give you a snapshot, a moment in time.
The factors that influence employee engagement in your organization can change rapidly. You need an assessment method that's quick and painless, and can be applied whenever you want to evaluate the impact of organizational changes on employee engagement.
Here's how you can Do-It-Yourself:
The EAGER Factor
The emotions and behaviors of your employees are the language they use to communicate. We call it The EAGER Factor.
Engagement is an instinct. We attach ourselves to experiences that meet our needs. And when we sense a threat or risk, we fight or take flight, just like a reflex. And that's a good thing - because these are the instincts that keep us safe.
EAGER is an acronym that stands for Escape, Avoid, Get Even and Riveted. Each of these categories contains an array of behaviors and emotions, the human expressions of our engagement instincts.
EAGER provides a framework for examining organizational problems in the context of employee engagement. It provides a rapid method for identifying the level of engagement in a workgroup, department, or organization, by understanding the visceral responses that drive behavior. It can also help you understand what disengagement costs you.
In a workplace, escape behaviors are seen in high turnover, loss of key talent, and even Workers Compensation malingering.
Side Note: A 2004 Gallup study estimated that employee disengagement costs the US $350 billion annually.
How much do escape behaviors cost? Fraudulent workers compensation claims are estimated to cost the US economy $1.2 billion a year - accounting for roughly 2% of all worker's compensation costs. Employee turnover costs include lost productivity, replacement hiring, and training costs, as well as the loss of skills, knowledge and contacts that employees take with them when they leave. Loss of crucial front-line talent plagues companies from nursing homes to nuclear power plants.
When Salary.com conducted their 2008 Wasting Time and Work Study, 73% of survey participants indicated they spend part of their day on activities that were not work-related, such as socializing, conducting personal business, taking extra long lunches. What was the #1 reason that study participants gave for this behavior? Unsatisfied with work.
Avoidance behaviors are probably the most widespread and insidious forms that disengagement takes. Their impact on the bottom line is felt, but it's rarely acknowledged, because many leaders think that these behaviors are inevitable - just the cost of doing business.
Besides being off task, avoidance behaviors include doing the minimum: high absenteeism ... venting and complaining to coworkers ... negativism ... resistance to change .... protecting turf. When you consider that these behaviors are spread by word-of-mouth throughout an organization, how much time and energy and money do these waste?
Revenge is a primitive and compelling impulse - the flip side of feeling powerless. Get Even behaviors are seen in employees who are so angry they want to inflict damage on the company. They want to make you pay.
In mild forms, Get Even includes behaviors such as undermining and company bad mouthing to friends and family, or on the internet. Or consider the proliferation of company gripe sites.
Side Note: Considering Layoffs?
Review the costs. Numerous studies have shown an increase in voluntary turnover, disability claims, employee litigation, and even workplace violence following layoffs. These are the very same behaviors that The EAGER Factor predicts: Escape, Avoid, Get Even.
How else do employees Get Even? They may steal company supplies and inventory. They may take intellectual property such as customer and client databases, proposals and plans, password codes. Even employees who are otherwise honest may feel that they're only taking what is owed to them. In severe forms, Get Even fuels employee litigation or can even contribute to workplace violence.
It's no surprise that companies are more profitable when they engage their employees - Escape, Avoid and Get Even behaviors are costly!
Riveted employees are engaged employees. They feel emotionally connected to your company and its success. They're hopeful, satisfied, enthusiastic, even passionate about their work with you. They feel that they're a valued part of the team, and that sense of belonging and purpose drives their own performance as well as the organization's growth.
What Behaviors Do They Demonstrate?
The hallmarks of engaged employees are innovation and collaboration. They're more than just cooperative or adaptable. They actively generate new ideas and creative solutions that contribute to the organization's growth, as well as building on and advancing the ideas of their co-workers. They self-manage, stay with the company, and do word-of- mouth recruiting.
Is this rare? Absolutely. Gallup research found that roughly two-thirds of American workers are disengaged. But high engagement companies exist - and they're more successful. Studies show higher productivity, greater profitability, and better growth in earnings per share among companies with highly engaged employees.
Recognizing problem behaviors as symptoms of disengagement, understanding the instincts that drive behavior, gives you the chance to intervene effectively.
How Eager Are Your Employees?
Want to know how engaged your employees are? Take the EAGER test!
Rate each behavior, based on your own observations and what has been reported to you about your employees. No employee interviews are needed, although you can invite other employees or leaders in your organization to take the test (or even keep a tally of these behaviors in their department).
0 = Not observed
1 = Mild
2 = Moderate
3 = Severe or High
___ High turnover
___ Excessive absences
___ Us/Them splits between management and line staff, or between departments
___ Venting, griping, complaining
___ Doing the minimum
___ Not my job
___ Focused on the past
___ Hostile communications
___ Bad mouthing the company in person or on the internet
___ Employee theft of tangible or intellectual property
___ Employee litigation against the company
___ Workplace violence
___ High employee retention
___ Word of mouth recruiting
___ Creative problem solving
___ Lively and interactive meetings
___ Focused on the future
For each behavioral category, what number shows up most often?
Get Even: ___
Escape/Avoidance behaviors indicate disengagement.
Get Even are retaliatory behaviors that work against your company goals and objectives.
Riveted behaviors are signs that employees are actively engaged.
If Riveted = 0 or 1, disengagement is draining energy and resources. If Get Even behaviors are also present, disengagement is high risk!
If Riveted = 2 or 3, there is significant evidence of engagement. You can build on this connection, to increase performance, resolve internal conflicts, and constructively direct employee energy.
Scored a 2 or 3 in all categories? This workgroup or organization is polarized into us and them. Drill a little deeper to examine the patterns. Apply the EAGER test to smaller groups of employees, then identify the factors that keep some employees in while others are outsiders.
To assess your organization's readiness to improve employee engagement, ask yourself these questions:
How high a priority is engagement to your company?
What are the most important reasons why you want to improve employee engagement?
Have you been able to improve engagement in the past? How did you do it? How can you repeat it?
Are certain departments or workgroups more engaged? What factors are contributing to the employees' dedication and enthusiasm? How can you use them as a model for other parts of the organization?
What barriers or obstacles do you face in trying to improve employee engagement?
What support or resources can help you?
Charles and Susan Robinson are behavioral clinicians and the co-founders of Rivetmaker Consulting Inc. They help executives to produce positive and lasting changes in workplace dynamics through engagement.
Reprinted from Carolina Business online.