Employee engagement is at an all-time low.*
Active employee disengagement is at an all-time high.*
We have the lowest unemployment in the US ever right now with more job openings than there are people in the job market, and yet people are still unhappy with their jobs, and not even bothering trying to jump ship to find a better option.
Bad bosses are mostly a product of an inadequate business structure and training as well as poorly designed accountability systems that place emphasis on the wrong areas. Bad bosses will continue to create disengaged employees. We need a fundamental shift across the board.
Disengaged employees cause notable sums in net-profit annually and in the small business world, those profit margins are often slim enough as it is. Every time a small business loses an employee, they feel the financial squeeze (although it isn’t always properly attributed to the lost employee).
To help, I’ve got a few points on how to optimize employee engagement and maximize their potential!
Organize The Right Job + The Right Boss + Right Colleagues
Specifically: connect the employee’s communication & behavioral styles to both the job and the boss and the immediate colleagues!
As the boss, you are looking for an employee who’s natural skillsets lend themselves to the job at hand, but who’s communication style also meshes both with you and with their immediate co-workers. Think about it this way: if you've ever worked a job and you had to work with a coworker that you just hated, they made it hard to be engaged and have fun at that job. You don’t want to put an employee in that position. If push comes to shove and you’ve got a great match for the job and the coworkers, but you will need to adjust your communication style as the boss, take the overwhelming match and adjust your own styles.
That requires training & measurements though!
I personally use and recommend DISC for our team and my clients. I love the amount of research available on workplace application and have been extensively trained on it personally so I can speak from a place of authority. But honestly, there are tons of options. Find the one that works for you and use it to train your leaders, for hiring, and for engaging with the employees you currently have!
People are more than just how we behave and what our skillsets are. As employers, we have to dig into this other side and both understand what drives our employees, and help them understand it as well sometimes!
We are all motivated differently. Every time we are blocked from fulfilling what motivates us, we experience disengagement.
The assessments I use break this down into the Driving Forces and there are six different areas we are driven (each with two different sides of the “coin”): Knowledge, Utility, Surroundings, Others, Power, and Methodologies.
Surroundings: Individuals who are driven by how beauty and the form of their surroundings impact and influence their experience & ability to engage.
Knowledge: Individuals who are driven by learning and how much they value knowledge and the information to make the right decision.
Others: Individuals who are driven by how they value helping other people.
Power: Individuals who are driven by their sense of individuality, renown, status, or personal influence.
Methodologies: Individuals who are driven to find or create meaningful and defined systems that align with their personal beliefs in one way or another.
Utility: Individuals who value practicality, usefulness, and returns on investments of time, money, talent, and resources.
There are entire books written on these. Instead of duplicating them, I’d rather explain WHY these matter a little deeper.
I had an experience a while back where one of my driving forces was basically knocked upside the head and completely disregarded. One of my major drivers is one side of the Utility driver. I measure “success” in a project in terms of maximization of ROI on resources. In this situation, I was working with a client on a major project and we reached the end of the project and were gearing up to roll it out, and the client pulled the plug on the rollout. We were keeping the content we’d created, but not sharing it or using it to hold the teams accountable. We had spent months with all of the leadership working countless hours on this project! I was angry.
The client assured me that going through the process produced the desired effect. But not seeing the “end” of the project or the tangible ROI left me feeling like part of me had been abandoned. I walked out of that conversation wondering if I should sever ties with the client completely because I felt so disconnected.
Maybe you’ve got someone in your company who's intellectually driven by Knowledge. They are constantly driven to collect information and gather data. But maybe in your organization, collecting data is never made a priority because you have to get enough data to make a quick decision and then just move on. If this intellectually driven person is constantly being cut short on their research like this, they start to disengage from the outcome of their projects because they're never given enough time to pull together the research, they really feel they need to in order to be successful with that project. So, they may try their best the first time, but by the fifth time of being cut off they’re just sitting there feeling like they might as well not try.
So find out whatever it is that your employees are driven by! If you can find that out and give them the opportunity to live up to that drive in their job, you’ll be well on your way to creating active engagement in your employees.
One Last Thing…
Eliminating active employee disengagement and maximizing their engagement and potential comes down to leading from a place of service and transparency.
When I was in college, my first couple of jobs were as a waitress. While moving from my hometown to college-town, I switched franchises.
The first place I worked, I had the opportunity to see what it was like to work under very strict, rigorous, controlled, but also really good bosses who led from a place of transparency. For example, if the schedules came out and you were frustrated because you didn’t get the day off you asked for, they were quick to let you know that they had tried and couldn’t make it work but that you were welcome to switch with someone if you could find someone to switch with you. They were incredible, and always the people out there making sure that things were going smoothly and holding up a high standard when things were getting crazy in the restaurant. Even the crazy side-work which kept up the look of the restaurant by sweeping floors and cleaning down booths properly, they were there doing it with us to help with the standard.
But when I went to this other franchise, it was totally different. First of all, they didn't care about any of that side work and I started to realize that it really sucked because all that side work actually made a huge difference. It changed the atmosphere of the restaurant, and with it changed the tips. Not doing the side work led to a much dingier restaurant and the managers just pretty much sat in the back room and hid away during the work shift. And under these worse bosses, I got the chance to realize that even if the managers from the first franchise couldn't be out with us all the time, they were transparent about the work they were doing and how hard they were working to take care of us. And they definitely led first and foremost from a place of service and it made such a big difference in the entire culture of that organization.
The point is, leading from a place of transparency and service makes a bigger difference than you’d realize!
And this all ties back into your EQ, which impacts everything from productivity to leadership and is something you should work on developing if you want to create a place that your employees really want to be involved in. Because as the owner, you have the ability to make or break your workplace.
*It doesn’t matter where you get your stats, every study I’ve found has shown that these two numbers are either at an all-time high/low or very close.
Stephanie Scheller is a TED speaker, a two-time best-selling author and the founder of Grow Disrupt: a San Antonio based company dedicated to disrupting the way the world does business through training. In just under a decade, Stephanie has been behind the scenes with nearly 2500 small businesses. She has worked in groups and one-on-one to create total business transformation & help business owners live the life they got into business to create!