Only 1 in 3 employees is highly engaged? How can that be?

disengagedOnly one in three employees is highly engaged says Towers Watson in a 2012 study. Not only does that make sense to me, I fear the number may actually be even higher. Too many companies operate with just a few really, really bright and engaged people and a cast of other characters that are along for the ride.

This is why startups are such a powerful force in technology…people hand pick the early members of the team and their passion is what creates momentum. Unfortunately, as the company grows, it gets less choosy (because it can) and hires employees willing to take less risk but also not nearly as engaged. As companies grow, there are more places to ‘hide’.

How do you know?

First and foremost, you have to figure out if you have this problem. The odds are that you do. Fortunately, there’s new technology that actually makes it far easier than ever before…collaboration tools. You don’t have to look any further than enterprise social media to see who’s asking the questions and even more importantly, who’s take the time to answer the questions of their coworkers. It takes passion to step out of our own responsibilities and support others.

If you don’t have a social media tool that gives you this visibility, get one.

What can you do?

If you’ve gotten this far and realize you have this problem, you have a couple fo choices:

First, you can simply accept it and move on with the belief that one in three is enough to keep your business functioning. Maybe it is, but I’d suggest that’s a risky approach.

Secondly, you can begin to do things to improve the situation by understanding how you got to that place. The American Society of Employers offers this about the study’s results:

No one should be surprised at this conclusion — after all, workers have been doing more with less, and for less, for over half a decade. But they should be very concerned at the risk it suggests employers are taking: It may be that they have pushed engagement so close to the cliff that one more nudge would be enough to send it over. And if they have, the question becomes what it would take to pull it back from the precipice.

Knowing this, it could be time to take a look at how to reward people, and not necessarily financially, for doing more than the minimum. It might be time to be more honest about where and when you ask people to take on more without greater compensation. But more than anything, you need to reward those who find it in themselves to be highly engaged to set the example for the organization.

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Categories: Social / Collaboration, Workplace Reality

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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One Comment on “Only 1 in 3 employees is highly engaged? How can that be?”

  1. March 28, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    No one knows how many are disengaged..

    The root cause is a lack of focus on deliverables.

    When you have people parked in silos, they are potential resources, not engaged resources. They only become engaged when they work on Cases.

    Since Case is not a pervasive concept, we must say they are engaged “when they work on Cases or when they are converting inputs to outputs via process steps”, otherwise they are not.

    For those who have transitioned to Case, you have a sustained focus on objectives so there is no need to worry about process steps as the environment takes care of ensuring these get performed.

    We have had feedback from former employees who tried to come back to us after, according to them, now finding that they do in one month what they used to with us do in one day.

    They cite meetings about whether to have a meeting, followed by another to decide what the meeting should be about, then another to decide who to invite, . . . .

    Then, for the little time that remains to actually do something, they see no evidence of our MO which has always been “immediately, if not sooner” in key areas such as documenting design ideas and attending to hot line calls.

    So, you may be able to to confirm that the ratio is indeed 1/3 except that for those who belong to the “1” category, you may need to apply a second multiplier of 1/30 |(one day per month) to measure ‘productive engagement’, so the actual engagement factor may be 1/90.

    This is quite shocking to me.

    Collaboration tools ARE the answer providing there is something to collaborate on. This brings us to the need for ACM/BPM where you have orchestration and governance.

    Reminds me of the cartoon showing a bunch of people all lined up where someone asks “Now that we are organized, what do we do?”

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