How happy and satisfied are team members in your organization today? Are they enthused, optimistic, engaged, cooperative, and creative? Or are they frustrated, uninspired, and focused on their own success (and eroding their peers’ success)? Or are they somewhere in between?
A senior HR director had a conversation with her CEO recently. Their discussion focused upon increased turnover in their global organization. They were losing talented leaders and team members at a much greater rate than they’d seen in the previous five years.
Exit interviews revealed that these players didn’t feel valued. They saw the company as exclusively focused on results, not on the organization’s original purpose to “serve others” through their company’s products and services.
The senior HR director suggested doing an engagement survey to learn what the rest of their global workforce thought about these issues. The CEO boldly replied, “I don’t care about happy employees! I just want these people to produce!”
As you can imagine, a rather stunned silence filled the room.
This CEO isn’t alone in his beliefs about production being all important and that happy employees don’t matter. These are assumptions that many senior leaders hold. These leaders grew up among bosses that held and acted from these same beliefs.
It’s all these senior leaders know.
How might we effectively redirect a senior leader with this belief? How might we inspire that leader to both understand the benefits of employee engagement and happiness as well as actively encourage it?
Here are my three most effective approaches. In combination, I’ve had good success helping senior leaders shift their thinking and actually care about employee engagement.
- Show them the data. This particular CEO wasn’t influenced by the exit interview data from his own departing talent. What other data might influence him? Gather reliable, undeniable data that leaves the leader with no choice but to try more employee-friendly practices and policies. Internal data – like this organization’s exit interviews – will have the greatest impact. A regular, organization-wide engagement survey is a needed foundational piece of internal data. Look at simple, fast feedback solutions for internal data like TinyPulse. Present them with key insights from current engagement research from organizations like Gallup, and others.
- Show them the money. Happy, engaged employees produce better results and profits than disengaged employees. My firm’s research found that when clients engage in proactive culture alignment, employee engagement grows by 40% or more within 18-24 months. As engagement grows so too does customer service (by 40% or more) as well as results and profits (35%). Research from Towers Watson found engaged companies have 6% higher profits than disengaged companies.
- Show them it works. Do your own employee engagement research, “under the radar.” Find a willing leader of a distinct, intact business unit who will let you “experiment” for a year. Start with an engagement survey to get a “happiness” benchmark. Note performance of individuals and teams to get performance benchmarks. Identify policies and practices that pit people against each other and refine them so they encourage cooperative interaction. Set clear values standards for treating everyone with trust, respect, and dignity. Hold people accountable to those valued behaviors. Create open communications across teams and across levels so everyone feels fully informed. Stick with it. Within six months you’ll see upticks in engagement, service, and results. Compare this “skunk works” unit’s performance with other units performance, and you’ll find impressive gains. Share these results with your senior leaders, over and over again.
Will these approaches help every senior leader to embrace and fully support employee engagement? Not always. However, by leveraging these avenues you’ll have living proof that happy employees are worth the time and energy required by senior leaders to boost it.
How important is employee engagement, happiness, and well-being in your organization? Share your comments and insights below.
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