I was reading Gallup’s 2022 report about Employee Engagement and it said ’employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, according to their State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report. That’s equal to 11% of global GDP.’
We all know engaged employees are productive employees and we know why engagement matters but what are you doing about it as a leader in your practice to ensure they are engaged?
When I wrote The 10 Simple Truths about People series, the issues employees were having with their employers weren’t hugely different than they are today aside from what COVID-19 did to the location of where many people now work. SIMPLE TRUTH #6 is Employees want to be heard and understood. Keep reading to understand how this relates to employee productivity.
As leaders communicating all types of information to your team and your practice, please know your employees, in return, want to communicate with YOU. They want to give you input and feedback based on their perspectives. However, in order to have the ongoing dialogue your employees expect, you need to be receptive to hearing what they have to say and be prepared to make behavioral and/or operational changes needed to address their concerns. Your employees’ beliefs, thoughts and actions have a direct impact on your business’s bottom line. The closer you are to understanding the daily activities, conversations and underlying beliefs of your people, the more effectively you can manage expectations. The further removed you are from the collective ‘pulse’ of your people, the higher the chance your practice has low productivity due to misaligned activity, wasted resources and frustrated employees – who then disengage.
EMPLOYEES WANT TO BE HEARD
Because your employees hold the key to productivity, business improvement, innovation, and ultimately, the profits of your practice, you need to provide ways for them to speak to you and to be heard. Not providing avenues to hear from employees, limits your ability to learn useful information like process improvements that can be made and other creative ideas they have to share. Besides that, you hire smart, talented, insightful people who want to be involved and who know how to solve your business problems – you should be tapping into your valuable investment and the largest cost to your business.
Stay Interviews have been around for 10+ years now and still few businesses are doing them. These are when you interview current employees and solicit feedback you need to hear while these talented people are still working for you (i.e. “what is working?” “NOT working?” etc.) The resulting data is more useful and relevant to improving your organization and/or addressing concerns than if you wait to do an Exit Interview with someone who has resigned and is soon leaving your employ. The Stay Interview is concerned with keeping great talent by giving leaders and managers a chance to address potential issues in real-time. The more popular Exit Interview is retrospective and doesn’t help you keep a talented employee who is walking away. The second half of SIMPLE TRUTH #6 is harder to accomplish but worth the effort if you intend to keep high performers, increase productivity and ultimately – your profits. In order to show you understand your employees, you first need to know what they expect.
EMPLOYEES WANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD
What employees expect from their employer is not the same across the board. Read that again because it’s important. Your employees all come to work for you for different reasons. And, over the course of each person’s employment with your practice, those reasons change priority as time passes and their career evolves. It is important for you to understand what I call – employment variables – that both current and potential employees make their work and life decisions based on. Psychologists usually refer to them as tangible and intangible benefits or rewards. They include, but are not limited to:
- The Culture of the practice (behavioral expectations, values)
- Your vision & mission
- Financial stability of the practice
- Job location (length of commute)
- Physical work environment (and amenities)
- Up-to-date technology and tools they work with each day (resources to be successful)
- Compensation (fair market value)
- Benefits (medical, paid time off, 401k match, etc.)
- Caliber of team members
- Job title/level
- Job content
- Ability to learn and grow (both formal and informal Training & Development)
- Clear career path (line of sight of how to get promoted)
- Organization’s diversity, equity & inclusion initiatives
Whether they are current employees or candidates interviewing for a position, people base their employment decisions and discretionary efforts on a combination of the employment variables listed above that are important to them. On a regular basis, they review those variables and determine whether they want to spend their time and energy (discretionary effort) contributing to their job and the business for which they work. Thinking “is it still worth my time?”, they continually gauge if they are getting what they expect from their employer and their resulting engagement (productivity) reflects where they are. While you control many things in your practice, discretionary effort on the part of your employees is the one thing they control.
Here’s how it looks: Ed Employee is a top performer. His top 3 employment variables are job location, caliber of team members and compensation. Some of his teammates have recently left to work for other places, his recent pay increase wasn’t what he expected and didn’t reflect his high performance rating, and you recently announced you are moving the office 20 miles from its current location – further from Ed’s home. For these reasons, Ed is now an unhappy employee. His level of engagement decreased because his current reality is out of sync with his expectations. Ed’s manager will probably see a change in his attitude and behavior including absenteeism – and Ed will likely pursue new employment making his productivity lower as well until he accepts a new job and leaves.
THE ENGAGEMENT EQUATION
Employee Expectations – Current Reality (What They’ve Received) = ENGAGEMENT
In order to more fully understand employee expectations and the variables impacting their engagement, leaders need to solicit different information than what current employee satisfaction and engagement surveys measure. Surveys and internal interviews need to ask: Of this list of Employment Variables, which are your top 3-5? Then, on a regular basis managers should ask: “What have you received in relation to that same list?” These questions, in addition, to the usual ones like: “What could be improved for you to be more engaged?” and “How satisfied are you with your benefits?”, etc. will result in better data.
If you’ve read my articles before, you know a Cindy-ism is – ‘People don’t come to work to suck at their jobs.’ They come to work expecting to be successful and do something meaningful with their time and energy. However, if they don’t get what they need to be successful from your business (i.e. the tools/resources, training, a Manager with the right amount of experience, or there aren’t policies or programs that support their values and needs of belonging) your employees will not produce at a high level.
If you understand my equation and apply it to how you measure engagement you have a better chance of increasing employee productivity. Remember: profits, including cost reductions, are a result of human behavior. Your employees’ behaviors either help – or hinder – business activities that lead to increased, or decreased productivity, customer satisfaction, service quality and innovation.
The more you understand the individual expectations of your employees, the more effectively you can lead. When you start asking the right questions, your employees will know you, in earnest, want to understand them. When you then change things within your organization based on their feedback, your employees will know they are being heard. This SIMPLE TRUTH is important to them — and your business profits reflect it. People Matter in Business.
Cindy Goyette, SPHR, MA, CC is a Human Resources Leader with expertise in HR Operations Service Delivery, Talent Management and Organizational Development & Effectiveness. She helps business leaders ensure they have the right talent in the right chairs to execute their business strategy. She helps align human behaviors with business operations infrastructure in order to positively affect process improvements, reduce operating costs and increase employee engagement.