Start with expectations

According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, only 33% of employees in the United States are engaged at work, compared to an engagement rate of 70% at the world’s best organizations. The ‘33%’ figure has lead us all to ask two key questions:

  1. What do we mean by engagement, really?
  2. How do we improve employee engagement?

Let’s start with what we do know. We know what happens when workers are not engaged.

  • They’re generally less happy, leading to a dangerous state of contagion to co-workers and dare I say customers. Who wants to stay at a company where the workers aren’t very happy, and who wants to buy from someone who isn’t happy?
  • Output tends to be a lower quality. This could even be dangerous in the case of healthcare workers, engineers, mechanics, military, drivers, childcare and eldercare employees.
  • They tend to be less productive, even skipping work – negatively impacting production rates and deadlines. A risky business when you think again about those in healthcare. There’s also a huge, financial impact – according to Gallup, actively disengaged employees cost the United States between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity per year.

In fact, organizations are so aware of the negative impact of a disengaged workforce that some are even paying employees to quit!

So back to our question, ‘What do we mean by engagement, really?’  According to Gallup’s State of the Workplace report, there are 12 elements of engagement, and to start, I’m going to address the first here:

  1. I know what’s expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. I can do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. There’s someone at work who seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There’s someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. My opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. I have opportunities at work to learn and grow.

So, with the first question answered, let’s address the second, “How do we improve employee engagement?” Let’s start with the first engagement element around expectations:

The hiring organization needs to clearly outline the expectations of the employee starting even prior to their first day on the job during the onboarding process. Let’s back up a bit more – I’m not talking about goals here, but expectations.

  • Expectations vs. goals. Performance expectations provide a framework of how you should perform your job function(s). As you can see, expectations are pretty darn different than goals, which are measurable results to be achieved by a certain date.
  • Expectation-setting. As a hiring manager, a great way to get started in setting expectations is to leverage your corporate, core values. An additional way is to think about the behaviors of your top performers – this is a great way to ensure your expectations are realistic.
  • Expectation-writing.
    • Be sure to write it as an expectation and not a rule.
    • An expectation should be written as a positive, not a negative – for example, “Do not do X”.
    • Have examples ready to communicate to new hires to support how these behaviors result in an enjoyable and productive workplace.
    • Examples of expectations may touch on such areas of dependability, communication, decision-making, planning, attention to clients, respect of workers and the workplace, and more.

What next? Beginning with the new hires’ very first day on the job, the manager and employee should have ongoing discussions about key behaviors and characteristics that the employee is expected to demonstrate at work based on their role.  It’s the responsibility of the manager to ensure that they’re clearly spelling out what their and the organizations’ expectations are of the employee.

Hopefully this blog will help you tackle the first element of engagement. Stay tuned as we count down to number 12!

Engaging Experiences