Yeah—clickbait headline. But it worked right? But I do finish the sentence…
You will know you have employee engagement when an employee at some level in the company says “no” to a promotion, job change, raise, etc., because it doesn’t benefit the company long-term.
When that happens you know you have 100% employee engagement from that employee.
Will that ever happen? Abso-freakin-lutely not! No employee in their right mind will ever turn down money, position, or power and defer to the “company” over themselves.
I mean, really, does that ever happen?
Well. Yes. All the time in the military.
Now, not every member of the military does this, but a substantial number of our volunteers do and say they will take bullets, jump on grenades, and take risks that help their fellow soldiers while putting their own lives in danger. There is a history of this behavior in military service. That, my friend, is engagement. That is when you know the mission and values of the individual are in alignment with the mission of the organization.
I’m not even close to suggesting that you should have employees willing to die for each other—but until you can get employees to think critically about their role and how they can BEST add value, regardless of their personal desires, you will never have total employee engagement. This is different than the percentage of employees “engaged” in an organization. This is about what percentage of the individual employee is focused on the company versus themselves. Big difference. And that can only be impacted by a good manager getting close enough to the employee (not physically— emotionally) to understand how to help make that connection.
I bring this up to simply say managers have a huge impact on the percentage of the individual employee that is engaged with a company—and less so in making sure all employees are engaged across the organization. For some, that might seem like a distinction without a difference but is very different. As a manager, I’d be happy to have 51% of my employees be 51% engaged—at least I’d be comfortable that a slight majority of my employees will lean slightly in my company’s favor vs. every employee being 100% self-focused or only 25% of them 100% focused. Right now we’re dealing with (according to those who measure these things) about 30% of our employees being about 60% engaged.
The Chicken and The Pig
There’s an old consultant saw about the difference between commitment and involvement. The story goes:
A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.
The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”
Pig replies: “Hmm, maybe, what would we call it?”
The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”
The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”
I think too often companies want commitment from ALL their employees when all they can truly expect is involvement from most and commitment from a few. That is a recipe for failure (and 30 years of low engagement scores.)
Thoughts? Are we trying too hard to get everyone on the boat instead of finding those who will volunteer and live the mission? Or are we reaching for the wrong goal? Should we focus more on simply getting more employee involvement and less engagement?
The things that keep me up at night…
Paul Hebert is Vice President of Individual Performance Strategy at Creative Group Inc, writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. He is dedicated to creating true emotional connections often overlooked in our automated, tech-enabled world. Using proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation, incentives, and engagement.