Friday, December 9, 2011

How Engaged Are Your Workers?

Posted by Pamela Wong

It makes sense that engaged employees—those who are committed to their work, emotionally and intellectually—are better employees. They have more motivation and perform at a higher level than their less-engaged coworkers, and they are less likely to leave their jobs. It’s easy to see why the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence devotes item 5.2 to workforce engagement and asks “How do you engage your workforce to achieve organizational and personal success?”
Unfortunately, though, the majority of American workers are not engaged, according to the Gallup Employee Engagement Index. Since Gallup began tracking this metric in the fourth quarter of 2010, it has found the percentage of engaged employees to hover between 28 and 30 percent. The percent actively disengaged has been 18 or 19 percent, while the majority of 51–53 percent are classified as not engaged.
These numbers caused me to wonder why only about one-third of workers are engaged. Gallup began this index last year, during a very challenging U.S. economy that continues to this day. Could that be a factor?
An article in The Wall Street Journal , “How to Motivate Workers in Tough Times,” deals with this very issue. In it, Jim Harter, who studies employee engagement at Gallup, discusses how managers can help employees stay committed and do their best amid difficult circumstances. Here is some of his advice:

· Get to know well the people you manage. Then, if someone loses a friend at work due to layoffs, for instance, that person will still feel connected within the workforce. Knowing the strengths of workers will also help if it is necessary to reposition people because of layoffs.

· Set clear expectations. If a smaller workforce is causing roles to change, ongoing communication and clear expectations are important.

· Have fun. Resist the tendency to become hard-grinding when there are fewer people to get the work done. This stresses people out. Instead, Harter said, “build relationships, and have fun at work.”

· Give recognition. “When times are tough, it’s easier to think about correcting weaknesses than to think about recognizing people when they’re doing great,” says Harder. “I would argue recognition is even more important in times like this. … [Recognition] is a basic human need, and it makes people do productive things.”

We can also learn from Nestlé Purina PetCare (NPPC), a 2010 Baldrige Award winner, on how to achieve an engaged workforce. NPPC recognizes that its people are one of its strategic advantages, and assessment is an important element of its employee engagement. To this end, NPPC uses a comprehensive annual survey, the Organizational Capabilities Questionnaire (OCQ). Each department uses a customized questionnaire that reflects its most important engagement factors. The OCQ includes benchmarking and links to specific business results.

How does your organization encourage worker engagement during difficult times? Could it do more?

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