Your employees love their jobs.

Right?

Are you – put your hand in the fire – sure about that?

Because according to a report by Gallup, only 13% of all employees feel “engaged” with their work. In other words, only 13% of the entire workforce feels truly passionate for what they do and are happy to go the extra mile.

A whopping 24% are “actively disengaged” – these are the employees that hate their jobs.

The other 63%…well, they’re all pretty “meh” about their jobs; not giving it all but not actively giving their employers any trouble either (check out this article on Forbes for a great summary of the numbers right here).

Those are pretty shocking numbers!

That means that it’s almost impossible that everybody in your team is indeed as happy as you (would like to) think with their jobs.

Crap!

 

Increase employee engagement

SO NOW WHAT?

I’ve written a guest post on Brazen Careerist in which I give (employees) tips on how to turn a dead-end job around without having to quit (read it here and thanks @Brazencareerist for giving me the opportunity).

And though I definitely think that each individual is responsible for her OWN life and career happiness, I also think that managers and leaders have a responsibility to not let it come to that point where their employees do indeed feel like they are in a dead end job and actively do something to increase employee engagement.

You know, the type of job where you feel that weekdays just continue to drag on and your weekends just seem to fly by. Where mornings are just clouded in negative anticipation of the day and evenings are spend burned up on the couch. Where nothing at work seems to make you happy (anymore) and the only thing that keeps you going is the idea that you need to keep this job because of the money or experience.

It’s not a good place!

Perhaps you’ll recognize this as the place you fled from to become an entrepreneur or follow your dream job, or perhaps you’re still in it. Either way, you know it is an emotionally draining place and quite obviously not doing anyone any good from a practical business perspective either.

Because, how much value is someone just dragging her shoes now really delivering?

I know for myself that I can work endless hours when I’m enthused about what I do. I have energy and am able to energize people around me. And most importantly, I have a lot of fun doing it!

But when I don’t…when there’s just an inkling of something missing in the job, the organization or the relationship with my manager, the energy simply starts to drain. I’ll still make the hours, but mainly out of personal responsibility and the idea that I can change what is going wrong by putting in more effort.

What really happens is that it slowly burns me up from the inside until I am actually at the point of emotional burnout and simply quit the job or go and spend some time in an ashram in India and hike in the Himalayas for a few months.

And that’s not really what you want for your employees is it?

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T DO ANYTHING TO INCREASE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT?

And with this, I mean the potential problem of having a big number of people who either hate their jobs or are just in it for the money.

Though every individual reacts in her own way and the level of impact will vary with the number of employees that are ‘suffering’, there are a few things that undoubtedly happen when you let these types of circumstances exist in your business:

  • Productivity suffers. Big time!
    You know what happens to your work when you don’t feel motivated; you don’t do it or you don’t put any real energy in it. There’s just no longer that feeling of ‘ON’ that always seems to buzz things up.
  • Your relationship with your customers will suffer.
    When I was 18, I had a summer job for which I went door to door and sell postcards. They were horrendous looking things and we had this happy peppy script that some days worked like a charm, and other days not at all. The difference: my energy and my motivation. You can’t fake yourself through sales and customer service. People will always notice and your customer relationship WILL suffer.
  • Forget being innovative and forward moving.
    Innovation demands an environment that feels free, open, safe and stimulating. And it requires people who are willing to go the extra mile to think outside of that box (and all that jazz…). And that’s just not present when there are ‘haters’ around.
  • It will spread throughout your entire company.
    Even when it’s just one or a few people who feel that way, negative energy has the unfortunate tendency to travel with the speed of light. People talk (well…complain) to each other, start gossiping and pull each other downward. It sounds horrible but I’ve seen it happen in dozens of companies, no matter the size.
  • You’ll become and react angrier.
    Yeah…you’ll find yourself falling into that trap you told yourself never to fall into (I did…). It’s just really frustrating when you work so hard on making sure everything is exactly right for everyone. It feels like people are simply ungrateful or clueless of the amount of effort you put in to the business and your employees. And because you feel this way, you’ll start to react to people in a way that you might normally not do.
  • Your best people will quit.
    The people who were passionate and driven will start to move away from the negativity. Especially when they sense that their managers/leaders are incapable of dealing with it properly.

 

If you let this type of negative energy actively exist in your business, you WILL end up in a downward spiral.

 

Increase employee engagement

 

Quick sidenote: there’s a big difference between someone not being completely happy and someone being superinspired and energized. As I believe it is important to first work on the general basics, we’ll now focus on making sure that all employees are simply comfortable and okay with what they do in your business.

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO TURN THIS AROUND?

Step 1: Acknowledge It

If you really want to increase employee engagement, then acknowledging there is a problem is always the first step.

And it’s hard: most of us will not even call this a problem as it happens so often. But not being happy with that what you spend most of your time and energy on IS A PROBLEM.

So why does acknowledgement usually not happen?

Managers are often:

  • Too busy running the business;
  • Simply not empathic enough to pick up on this;
  • Ignore it because they don’t feel like dealing with it (or know how to);
  • Play along, as it is the perfect way for natural selection to occur.

 

Employees on the other hand:

  • Ignore it because it’s not something they want or can to admit (to themselves and/or their managers);
  • Are afraid to talk to their managers about it because of the potential consequences this might have;
  • Stick with it because they’re happy to wallow in misery.

 

Though it’s hard not to judge the participants in this game, there is really no reason to. It’s business; it’s tough and stressful and even when everyone involved has the best intentions; mistakes are made and that’s okay.

But, the moment you become aware of the fact that there is indeed an employee unhappy with her job and you really do want to make a positive change; acknowledging that there is a problem is the only way to go.

Step 2: Empathize With Each Other

The easiest solution we people often find for problems is to not take responsibility for ourselves and point towards the other.

But when it comes to dealing with human relationships there’s really not much use in blaming people. Sure, you can do it, but it will just worsen the situation instead of making it any better.

So, enter empathy

I’ve once had a team member of a client complain to me about the lack of coaching and direction from the owner. He was quite frustrated about it and just did not understand why something so seemingly obvious and simple (to him) was not happening. Especially because the work he was doing was so new to him; he felt like he was swimming (and drowning).

And then I told him that that’s exactly how the owner was feeling in his new role as a manager. Just as new, just as swimming and just as drowning.

AHA!

That relationship changed instantly as they both understood they were feeling the EXACT SAME THING.

That’s empathy; understanding the perspective from the other by recognising that same thing in yourself.

Step 3: Deal With It

And then you talk.

In a formal setting, an informal setting. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever the culture is of your organisation and whatever the nature of the relationship with your employee, you simply talk, acknowledge and empathise.

Or perhaps you fight and scream first. I’ve always thought it would be incredibly beneficial to always have boxing gloves around to simply fight the negative energy out in a way that is also a surprisingly good cardio workout.

Either way, make sure you work your way through the following:

  • Acknowledgment of the problem on BOTH sides;
  • Understanding each others perspectives for what they really are, not just the assumptions you might have about the other;
  • That you both agree that the current situation is not acceptable;
  • Compare your visions; on the business and on your employees role in this;
  • Figure out if those visions align or not;
  • What you both are going to do about it next.

 

This sounds trickier than it often is. If you feel that you can use a little guidance through this talk then you can of course invite someone else in to facilitate the conversation. You could also use the Vision Guide to work your way through it.

Whatever the outcome is of the talk, you’ll both need to walk away feeling like the air has been cleared and with concrete actions that will create a win win solution for you both.

Perhaps that is that the employee will go out and find a new job. Perhaps it’s as simple as planning a coaching session once every 2 weeks. The solutions, and actions, are linked to the root cause of the problem and that’s the thing you’ll need to find and solve.

Step 4: Offer Continuous Support

Just like in the improvement of a process, you need to make sure that the improvement sticks and delivers the actual results. That means that you’re not done after just one talk. As an employer – one that does indeed want to increase employee engagement –  you have a continuous relationship with your employees and that needs to be managed as much as the daily operation does.

That means that you’ll need to know what’s going on with this employee constantly. That the actions you’ve agreed to are working out, that you regularly talk about the current state of being and if things are indeed improving. Because if they’re not, something else needs to happen!

You’ll need to make sure that the employee feels (and is) supported in her quest to turn her job around and you can only do so by actually supporting her.

Step 5: Make Sure It Can’t Happen To Anyone Else

Nobody likes dealing with these things; they’re awkward and uncomfortable and they take up a lot of energy, let alone time and money. So why not make sure you prevent them from happening a next time? That you make sure everything is in place to tackle it before anything happens?

Here’s what needs to be in place for that:

  • You’ll need to manage expectations from the start.
    Some jobs are simply not that glamorous and when you’re a relatively small business and especially when you’re just starting out, there’s often simply no other choice than to do the daily hustle of sales and customer service. Though the company and the job will evolve over time, it is necessary that people starting out are aware of the hard, and not always very fun, work that needs to be put in for at least the first year.
  • The people you hire need to fit your culture like a glove.
    A cultural fit is more important than a fit on skills. Just because someone is really good at something it does not mean she will fit in the business well and in the long-term it will cost you both much more energy to work together than you will have in benefits. Skills can be learned, cultural fit cannot (check out the other 5 tips to make sure you don’t hire the wrong people here).
  • You’ll need a structure for regular feedback.
    You’ll need to make sure that your employees are able to talk to you (or someone else in charge) about other things than just operations on a regular basis. This is tricky because there’s often not enough time (made) when you’re running a business but it’s important to do if you want to prevent problems further on.

 

Making sure you increase employee engagement might sound like an extra hassle.

Like steering your business in the right direction, dodging bullets from competitors and making sure your customers love you isn’t hard enough as it is, right?

But think about it.

Do you really want to be that employer people complain about at parties?

Or do you think it’s very likely that you’ll get to make that great big positive dent in the universe when 87%(!) of your workforce is not fully engaged?

You’re not!

The wellbeing of your team is just as important as any other part of your business and it needs just as much care.

That might just mean that you’ll need to free up time for just this and that might just mean that you’ll have to rethink your own work and workload (and leadership skills for that matter).

But apart from the business benefits you’ll get from doing so…

Isn’t it just the right thing to do?