Employee Engagement: Is someone trying to sink your boat?

A recent Gallup study indicated only 3 in 10 employees are engaged with their company and work. The study also revealed that 5 in 10 employees are disengaged….sort of going along for the ride…not really contributing effort to drive the organization forward.

Worse yet the study indicated that 2 of every 10 employees are “actively disengaged” meaning they are working against your efforts. If these ten employees are the crew on your ship, these 2 are actually trying to sink your boat! I don’t know about you, but this statistic really shocks me. Why would a fellow crew member try to sink our ship? We have a great ship! Don’t we?

The fact is, it doesn’t matter how great you think your ship is. What matters is how connected your crew feels to your mission. Do they even know where this ship they’re on is headed? Do they feel empowered to affect a change in course? Do they understand and believe in the purpose of the journey?

Employee engagement, or the lack of it, is a critical issue in the work place and one that should have the focus of leadership. Most leaders are focused on revenue and profits, which sounds logical – right? It’s not. Or at least it should not be the exclusive area of focus. A boat captain, can’t bring their ship to port alone, every crew member plays an important role in the success of the voyage.

Consulting firm Senn-Delaney has captured what they call the “Culture Continuum” consisting of 6 levels from significantly disengaged organizations to those that are uber-engaged. Keeping it simple, here is each level as reflected by the thinking of leadership:

Level 0 – “We’re content with how we get things done.”

Level 1 – “Let’s do better, let’s get started.”

Level 2 – “As leaders, we drive the culture.”

Level 3 – “How does this impact our business?”

Level 4 – “Our employees’ experience is our customers’ experience.”

Level 5 – “Our culture is our greatest strategic asset.”

Engaged employees have an emotional commitment to your organization and are willing to spend discretionary effort to achieve the organizations goals.

Discretionary effort is the pixie dust of organizational success. It’s the stuff that separates great organizations from the ones that just sort of exist.

Just sort of existing may be enough…until there is a crisis or market shift. When that happens, you are going to need a boat full of truly engaged employees to implement change. They will be willing and eager to provide discretionary efforts to right the ship, set a new course, and power forward.

Creating a customer-centric culture through deeply engaged employees requires a top-down strategic effort. If the focus of your leadership is driving revenue and profits, your focus is in the wrong place.

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