A recent worldwide Gallop poll informs us that of the billions of workers across the world, only 15 percent classify themselves as “engaged” in their work. That leaves a whopping 85% of the working population dissatisfied and disengaged. It’s been proven that disengaged employees are less productive overall, so when you take into account the productivity hours lost by unmotivated and disconnected employees, the cumulative blow to your bottom line is almost incalculable.
“‘Employee engagement’ is a buzzword that we hear a lot in the business world,” says Scott O Hirsch. “Companies are pouring billions of dollars into employee engagement strategies and programs.” So where is the disconnect?
“I believe that there are effective ways to develop employee engagement,” says Scott O Hirsch. “But those strategies are based on understanding the difference between investing in employee engagement and investing in your employees themselves. If you want to motivate and engage your employees, you have to invest directly in your employees.”
Create Opportunities for Growth Advises Scott Hirsch
Of the 15 percent of employees who consider themselves “engaged,” almost 90 percent say they would leave their current company for a position with clearer career path planning, education opportunities, or other growth opportunities. “High performers are the kind of people who naturally seek out ways to improve and grow,” says Scott O Hirsch. “When you don’t supply those opportunities yourself, you’re missing a huge chance to engage them further in their work and improve their performance.”
Of the large percentage of employees who were not engaged, over 75 percent said one of the reasons was lack of opportunity or no path forward. “No one wants to feel like they’re stuck in a dead-end job,” says Scott Hirsch. “It’s human nature to strive for more. Feed that impulse and you won’t just get happier employees, you’ll get more highly-skilled and more efficient and productive employees.”
Not sure where to start? Scott O Hirsch suggests offering career counseling through your HR department. “There are so many curriculums they can choose from. Or you can develop your own in-house.” Career counseling can be as simple as letting people know what positions they can move to laterally or vertically as the next step in their career. Often people simply aren’t aware of how their skills can translate.
Martha in customer service may be longing for a change, but she feels like she needs to move to a different company to get it because she has a certain set of skills on her resume. But in reality, her ability to present to groups confidently and her knack for turning difficult subject matter into easily understood layman’s terms makes her perfect for Organizational Development as a Trainer.
“When you can help people discover and hone their strengths, you make them feel seen and appreciated. And in return, you’re retaining a good employee and benefiting from those new skills and strengths. Everyone wins when you invest in the growth of your employees,” says Scott O Hirsch.
Ask for Feedback and Encourage a Culture of Questions Says Scott Hirsch
Is there anything as demotivating as feeling unheard? Studies suggest that companies with the lowest employee engagement are also the companies with the least communication and who discourage employee input. “It’s not always done intentionally, but it is so easy for a lack of feedback and transparency to become a part of your culture,” says Scott O Hirsch.
“When you encourage feedback and questions, you are encouraging critical thinking, curiosity, and creativity,” says Hirsch. “These are the conditions for disruption and innovation. When you stop questioning you stop learning – and when you stop learning, you stop growing.”
Of course, it’s easy enough to say “develop a culture of questioning,” but implementing it can be challenging – especially if it’s the opposite of your current company culture. Change is difficult, even when it’s a change for the better. And on top of that, you have to prove to your employees that you mean what you say.
“You have to create an environment of trust and remove repercussions for asking questions and providing honest feedback,” advises Scott Hirsch. “The only way to accomplish that is to take a deep breath and dive in. And steel yourself to hear things you don’t like. Remember, a true growth mindset means taking critical feedback and using it as an opportunity to improve.”
Scott advises that you start with anonymized surveys and suggestion boxes. “Allow your employees to speak their minds in a safe place first,” he says. “Make it clear to leadership that even if they recognize a turn of phrase or tone, there will be no negative repercussions for employees willing to share their ideas and frustrations.”
Then,” continues Scott O Hirsch, “implement meaningful change based on what you learn.” He acknowledges that this is the hardest part of the feedback process, but it’s also the most important one. You need to prove to your employees that there’s a payoff to being transparent and asking questions.
People love to feel like they’re making a difference. It gives them a sense of agency and meaning. You have to prove that you are truly empowering them to instigate meaningful change in the company. Once you do that, you won’t be able to stop the flood of information and ideas.
“Your return on investment will be lower turnover, happier, more productive employees, and a more innovative and creative workforce. If you’re doing well now, imagine what you could accomplish by engaging the other 85 percent of your employees,” says Hirsch.