How Engaged Are We?

Most of us recognize that an engaged workforce is a productive workforce.  However, as engagement has become the new “silver bullet” that empowerment was several decades ago, leaders as well as organizations are struggling to define, assess, diagnosis, and improve engagement.  A quick walk through the business section at any major bookstore attests to the current level of interest in how to harness engagement in your organization.

Like many factors that improve organizations, we want to find out how it works, apply it, and move on to the next thing.  At times, this linear approach limits our ability to realize all of the possible gains from a new way of thinking and managing.  We tend to learn just enough to apply a few basic principles and overlook the deeper value of the ideas.  In the fast paced environment we all work, this behavior is not surprising.  We all seek balance between what has to be done today, what can be done tomorrow, and what would be nice to do if we have time.

Figure 1: Engagement Scores

Given the importance of engagement, it is important that we give it a second look.  In keeping with this idea, I want to share with you a few basic, yet deeper elements of engagement.  Figure 1 captures the ranking of each of the major engagements factors in 30 large organizations surveyed by HCS in 2010.  Several important ideas come out of the results:

  • Not all factors score the same
  • Employees feel best about what they can control
  • Supervisors and coworkers converged

Not All Factors Score the Same

As shown in Figure 1, organizations possess different levels of success with different factors.  Of the organizations surveyed, the employee engagement factors score the best while organizational factors score the worst.  In other words, employees feel that their jobs match their expectations from an interest and skills standpoint, but organizations have not been as communicative, rewarding, or strategic as an employee would expect.  As we target what to focus on, there are different levels of need and potentially different necessary actions.

Employees Feel Best About What They Can Control

The level of engagement gradually decreases as the results move from the individual to coworkers and to the organization.  This is not too shocking since most measures of engagement, trust, satisfaction, or confidence decrease as the results shift from the work unit to the organization as a whole.  It is a human trait to trust those things that are most familiar to us and to commit our energy and time more to those things that are in our immediate environment.  Consequently, if an organization is phenomenal at organizational engagement and has issues with job engagement, then results will be very hard to improve to an average level.  Similarly, if an organization has done well at job and supervisor engagement, but failed at the organization level, there is less room to make up.

Supervisors and Coworkers Converged

Supervisors and coworkers score similar in the overall results, but do vary some across the individual respondents.  This result is interesting since in past periods, coworkers normally score better than supervisors.  For the lack of a better explanation, the increased anxiety and competition of the current economic situation has lowered employee coworkers as employers downsize and increase workloads.

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