Thought leadership

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report 2013 is a result of an ongoing study of workplaces across 140 countries from 2011 through 2012. According to the report, there is an estimated $140 trillion growth expected globally over the next 30 years. The companies who thrive over the next few decades will be working now to position themselves to take advantage of this anticipated economic growth of potential customers. One of the key areas in which this will be made possible is in how engaged your organization is.

The most stark statistic listed in the study was that global engagement levels are at 13%. Imagine the lost productivity and revenue from having 87% of the global workforce either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged”. The US ticks in a bit higher at 30% engagement levels, but that is still larger than a 2:1 ratio of disengaged to engaged workers. Obviously plenty of work to do in this area.

The most disturbing number pointed out in the study was the engagement levels of leadership. The common perception is that leaders are typically more engaged than frontline employees. The prevalent thinking is that the more vertical you go in an organization, the more of an emotional investment the individual has in the success of the organization. The logical assumption is that these individuals in positions of leadership will be more engaged. According to this study, global leadership is at a staggering 18%.

With 89% of leadership – on a global scale – either not engaged or actively disengaged, is it a wonder that employee engagement is at an abysmal 13%? With $140 trillion on the line, can your organization afford to have these low levels of engagement? Of course not!

Here are some ideas of how to move this number in the right direction.

  1. Focus on leadership first – It is unreasonable to expect employees to be engaged more than leadership. If engagement is suffering in your organization, segment out the engagement levels of those in leadership positions. Work towards improving those numbers. You have a much greater chance of improving employee engagement when your leaders are more engaged.

  2. Use language to your advantage – One of the biggest drivers of organizational culture is language. The everyday language used by leaders will influence – and dictate – the quality and magnitude of the engagement levels in your organization. Language must be purposeful, with a common theme and exact words that encourage engagement as well as reinforce culture.

  3. Understand the vertical component – No matter how flat your organization is, there will always be a vertical component to it. There are natural “pockets” in your organization. It is not to justify silos; it is to understand the functional nature of an organization. These small areas make it easier to manage engagement efforts. It is important to note that these small areas MUST be tied into the larger picture through language and communication channels. Strategy is top down. Implementation is bottom up.

  4. Establish engagement accountability – Every individual is responsible for their own engagement. Leadership, however, is equally responsible for facilitating an environment that encourages engagement. Engagement levels of employees needs to be part of leadership performance management efforts. Without this in place, your organization is positioned to simply be a victim of low engagement levels.

  5. Understand where your employees are – Engagement efforts can’t be a one size fits all approach. Individuals are in different places personally and professionally. These varied needs and expectations influence their engagement levels. Understanding that engagement is a social skill and not a functional one will help in making this a bit easier. Seeing employees as human beings, instead of units of effort, will make engagement much more successful.

Engagement is so crucial to organizational success and it is not possible to improve without understanding how leadership and culture contribute to making engagement an integral part of your overall strategy.


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