This article was written by Fraser Marlow, VP of Marketing & Head of Research, Chris Rice, CEO, and Mary-Ann Masarech, Engagement Practice Lead at leadership development and engagement consultancy BlessingWhite.
Picture, if you will, each employee as a spinning plate. You can see your organisation as a large space with 100, 1,000, or even 50,000 plates spinning. Left too long without attention, they run out of energy, start spinning out of control or may come crashing to the floor. Personal development, coaching, performance management, addressing team dynamics and reinforcing objectives are all forms of plate spinning. (Extract from 'The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce,' published by Wiley)
There are many factors that would have attracted your employees to your organisation in the first place: exciting work, rewarding long-term opportunities or the freedom to make their own decisions. But what happens when these things change and we become disengaged within our role?
Low engagement is like having less energy flowing into these plates. The result is that more attention is needed to keep everything on track. Leaders in organisations with low engagement describe it as driving with the brakes on. Things could be so much easier and get done so much faster if it were not for the drag caused by disengagement.
Engagement is fundamentally an individualised equation – What might make one employee engaged might disengage the next. There are many variables that can impact any one person's engagement and the mix is individually unique. You can't just become a better plate spinner- You have to find ways to keep the plates spinning on their own.
Full and sustainable engagement represents an alignment of maximum job satisfaction and maximum job contribution.
To truly be engaged, individuals need to be satisfied with their immediate work and their career opportunities. Work and career are two intangible catch-all terms used to describe something much more profound to employees. Work is a very large part of an employee's identity – it is an opportunity to satisfy values, to maximise unique talents and to learn, develop and fulfil personal goals.
But your business' purpose is not only to have satisfied employees, they also need to be contributing. Luckily for many of us, these are closely equated. Employees become satisfied because they accomplish results and know their contribution is recognised and adding value.
This is how we define full engagement and the levels within: maximum satisfaction and maximum contribution.
Five levels of engagement
Culture Change: A Long Road Ahead
The process of creating a more engaged workforce is not easy. According to industry analyst firm Bersin & Associates, 71 percent of organisations measure employee engagement yet only 35 percent of HR practitioners believe that their engagement efforts lead to positive business outcomes.
You can weave engagement into the fabric of your organisation, but it will not happen next quarter and it should not happen solely to improve the results of your upcoming employee survey. Increased engagement is the long-term trajectory you will want to put your organisation on. Not all workplaces are populated with highly engaged employees, but every organisation can build – and sustain – a culture of high engagement. It is a long road and demands sustained commitment from the executive team. But once established it will be the strongest competitive advantage you have.