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Employee Engagement: What Is It Anyway?

Employee Engagement: What Is It Anyway?


    (Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two part series on employee engagement.)

    Now that the job market is improving somewhat, organizations have started to think more about retention, and the concept of “employee engagement” is being bandied about in offices across North America and Europe.  But what exactly is employee engagement, how do you know if you have it, and why should anyone care?

    Let’s begin with a simple definition. Employee engagement is a person’s degree of attachment to their company, role, and co-workers.  When employees are engaged, managers don’t have to force them to perform or monitor every task.  Rather, they are intrinsically motivated to do what’s in the best interest of the organization and can be trusted to do terrific work.

    Employee engagement is not the same thing as employee satisfaction.  The latter term was invented during the industrial age, when factory owners needed to ensure that masses of angry workers didn’t mutiny.  Satisfied employees don’t treat the organization as part of their family like engaged employees do, but they also aren’t gunning for its demise.

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    How Do You Know If People Are Engaged?

    To some extent, it’s easy to tell if an employee puts in that intangible but emotionally charged extra effort on the job.  But for those who like metrics, the good news is that there are many reliable ways to measure employee engagement.  Gallup, for one, has based its survey model on more than 30 years of in-depth behavioral economic research with 17 million employees.

    The company’s researchers identified 12 core elements, which they called the Q12, that predict employee and team performance and also link to essential business outcomes.  The questions include:

    • Do you know what is expected of you at work?
    • Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
    • At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
    • In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
    • Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
    • Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
    • At work, do your opinions seem to count?
    • Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
    • Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
    • Do you have a best friend at work?
    • In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
    • In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

    It’s easy to create a similar questionnaire to track engagement in your organization. You can ask these questions monthly, quarterly, or annually and have employees rate how much they agree or disagree on a scale of 1 to 5.

    Why Should You Care?

    It has been well demonstrated that the advantages of an engaged workforce include increased productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction.

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    Engaged firms have higher profits too.  According to the Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study, high-engagement firms grow their earnings-per-share (EPS) at a faster rate (28 percent) while low-engagement firms experienced an average EPS growth rate decline of 11.2 percent.  Likewise, HR consulting firm Hewitt Associates found that highly engaged firms had a shareholder return that was 19 percent higher than average.

    Even the organizational psychologists are singing the praises of employee engagement.  A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology claimed that resulting impact on revenue ranged from $960,000 to $1,440,000 per year per business unit when comparing those companies in the top quartile on employee engagement versus those companies in the bottom quartile.

    On the flip side of employee engagement is employee disengagement, and this presents an even bigger issue.  Before continuing with the discussion of disengagement, let’s characterize three types of employees:

    Actively engaged: These employees are always looking for ways to improve and work more efficiently.  They go above and beyond the call of duty to exceed expectations so that the company is more successful.

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    Not actively engaged: These employees show up to work and do their jobs, and leave as soon as the clock strikes 5PM.  They may be happy enough with their work, but have no desire to excel or help take the organization to new heights.

    Actively disengaged:  These employees are holding a grudge against the organization and look to undermine it at every turn.  They are the most dangerous because their negative attitude is contagious and can result in very real performance and morale problems.

    In the U.S., the estimated cost of disengagement in the workplace, which includes the actively disengaged and the not actively engaged, is over $350 billion in lost productivity, accidents, theft and turnover each year.  Gallup recently found that approximately 71 percent of American workers are not actively engaged or actively disengaged.

    When you consider these numbers, it’s no surprise that the majority of employees would be happy to leave their current organizations if a better opportunity presented itself.  And this is going to be expensive.  According to Ross Blake in his article Employee Retention: What Employee Turnover Really Costs Your Company, talent replacement costs an organization between 30 and 50 percent of the annual salary of entry-level employees, 150 percent of middle-level employees and up to 400 percent for specialized, high level employees.

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    Hopefully you’re now convinced of the need to address employee engagement with a fresh eye.  Later this month, we’ll explore some ways managers can improve team member engagement.

    (Photo credit: Business Engaged via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 13, 2020

    How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

    How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

    Have you been stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

    Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

    • Taking a job for the money
    • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
    • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
    • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
    • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

    There are many other reasons why you may be feeling this way, but let’s focus instead on learning what to do now in order to get unstuck and get promoted

    One of the best ways to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization. Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or do some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrate added value?

    Let’s dive right in to how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position.

    1. Be a Mentor

    When I supervised students, I used to warm them — tongue in cheek, of course — about getting really good at their job.

    “Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else.”

    This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some truth in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

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    This can get you stuck.

    Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:

    “Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role…You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong ‘personal brand’ equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call ‘a good problem to have’: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done ‘too’ good of a job!”[1]

    With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

    From Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

    Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

    Let’s say that the project you do so well is hiring and training new entry-level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, make hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

    Are there any team members who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

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    1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
    2. As a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower them to increase their job skills.
    3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job and creating team players.

    Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

    2. Work on Your Mindset

    Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is explained through this quote:

    “If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you—not the job—who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”[2]

    In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings to help you learn how to get promoted. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

    Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

    Present your case and show your boss or supervisor that you want to be challenged, and you want to move up. You want more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and the positive mindset you’ve cultivated.

    3. Improve Your Soft Skills

    When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills[3].

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    Use soft skills when learning how to get promoted.

      According to research, improving soft skills can boost productivity and retention 12 percent and deliver a 250 percent return on investment based on higher productivity and retention[4]. Those are only some of the benefits for both you and your employer when you want to learn how to get promoted.

      You can hone these skills and increase your chances of promotion into a leadership role by taking courses or seminars.

      Furthermore, you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

      Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has a position similar to the one you want.

      Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of their meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what their secret is! Take copious notes, and then immerse yourself in the learning.

      The key here is not to copy your new mentor. Rather, you want to observe, learn, and then adapt according to your strengths.

      4. Develop Your Strategy

      Do you even know specifically why you want to learn how to get promoted? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one-year, five-year, or ten-year plan for your career path? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what”?

      Sit down and make an old-fashioned pro and con list.

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      Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

      Look at your lists and choose the most exciting pros and the most frustrating cons. Do those two pros make the cons worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes,” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want[5].

      The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain

      Here are some questions to ask yourself:

      • Why do you do what you do?
      • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
      • What does a great day look like?
      • What does success look and feel like beyond the paycheck?
      • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

      Define success to get promoted

        These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your work friends over coffee.

        Final Thoughts

        After considering all of these points and doing your best to learn how to get promoted, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. Then, you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

        Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose.

        More Tips on How to Get Promoted

        Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

        Reference

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