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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Employees

The notion that an employee needs to be engaged, enabled, or energized is certainly not groundbreaking. But the problem is that they’ve generally been considered separately. Instead, think for a moment about these three traits visually, as shaded circles in a Venn diagram; when the three traits overlap, their three colors combine to form darker, richer tones. Any one without the other two is good but not sufficient for truly exceptional results.

A hamster on a treadmill is energized, for example, but it doesn’t really accomplish much by spinning its wheel. It isn’t enabled to take the wheel out for a spin in the woods. Likewise, an eager new military cadet may be engaged. He may care about the corps and be eager to serve his country, but without training and the right support, he’s unlikely to be of much use to his comrades. A teenager can be given all of the enabling freedom in the world, but if she isn’t engaged by an interesting challenge, she will likely be bored rather than energized and won’t accomplish much. Each of the E(energized) + E(ager) + E(ngaged) can be held hostage by an imbalance in the other two.

The flip side is that each of the three, when present, builds on each other, or you could say they combine as in a chemical reaction, becoming combustible.

As we have traveled around the world, we have found that most organizations regularly assess where they stand on employee engagement, using attitude surveys or pulse surveys. But to address real needs and move forward, they must also assess how enabled and energized their people feel. To determine the degree of E + E + E on a corporate level typically involves quantitative surveys, focus groups, and benchmarking against organizations in similar industries. And yet to understand the specific dynamics of their particular team, managers can conduct a simple analysis of their own. The key is that you must be able to interpret conversations and jumpstart honest face-to-face dialogue in order to make ongoing assessments through less structured, more intuitive means.

Below we provide three questions to help you start to determine if any of your team members are disengaged, dis-enabled, or un-energized. As you read the questions, take a moment to think about your team:

  • Do you have employees who care about the organization, but who are burned out?
  • Do you have people who are energized to do big things, but who feel stifled and not able to run?
  • Do you have employees who care, but who aren’t always focused on the right behaviors?

Did anyone come to mind? You most likely came up with clear images of people on your team or perhaps those in other areas of the company who match those descriptions. Does that mean they’re "problem children" who you should give up on? Not at all. But in most cases, by thinking about which of the E + E + E might be an issue for your employees you can begin to help them make needed corrections. For instance, Julie is a real go-getter with lots of ideas and energy, but she’s spending so much time on her passion—making your social media sites better—that her day job of setting up new customers is suffering. Jared has been one of your most productive people for several years. He’d walk in front of a train for you or the company, which is probably why he never says ‘no’ to new assignments. The pressure is sapping his drive, he’s short-tempered and overwhelmed, and he mentioned last week that his new girlfriend has just about had it with all the long hours. No matter how much you are paying him, it’s not enough.

As you can see, it’s fruitless for an employee to feel engaged without feeling he or she is energized to sustain momentum or enabled to succeed on the team’s real priorities. Each driver is unable to sustain our success long-term without the other accompanying elements.

Want more? Low-Cost Ways To Show Employees They're Highly Valued

Excerpted from ALL IN: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. Copyright 2012 by Gostick & Elton, LLC. Reprinted with permission by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

[Image: Flickr user Carrie Cizauskas]

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  • Tom Gimbel

    So the real
    question is, how do you make employees feel engaged, energized AND eager? Yes,
    it's crucial to have a balance of the three e's and identify which employees
    don't have the balance, but it's more essential to have an action plan for how
    to create a balance. While it's true, some of the responsibility lies with the
    employee, I believe it also rests with management.

    Employees feel engaged when their opinions are sought after and considered,
    when their input matters. They feel engaged when their manager takes the time
    to speak with them, and not necessarily just about work. Invest in employees,
    make them a part of leadership decisions, involve them in staff councils and
    create a platform for their suggestions.

    Employees feel energized when they are engaged. They also feel energized when
    fun, exciting, new things happen. Keep employees energized by constantly
    offering new incentives, competitions or just fun things to do. Keep the energy
    in the office up by maintaining an element of surprise. Even if it's something
    as small as bringing in lunch for your employees or something as large as
    taking them to a surprise venue for a concert, energy increases when employees
    are having fun.

    Employees feel eager when they are given new tasks and complemented for a job
    well done. There is nothing like praise (the right kind of praise for each
    employee) to keep them motivated and striving to continue improving.

    As you
    stated Adrian and Chester, it's crucial to create symmetry between the three
    e's. But it does take work from both the employees of an organization and the
    management team.

  • Suchitra Mishra

    Hello Adrian and Chester,

    Great post. E(energized) + E(ager) + E(ngaged) = E(xcellence) at work. It takes considerable effort and strategy to put together and sustain a team that thrives on challenges and makes work look like fun and a great adventure. No org level employee engagement initiative will work unless individual managers take the ownership of Ensuring that they provide an environment for their teams where all 3 Es are enabled.

  • Jaylyn Schumpert

    Great article!! As you mentioned most of the time employers focus on "engaged" and forget about eager and energized. As I read through the article I could clearly picture people that fit each question that was posed. Employers can definitely benefit by knowing which "E" and employee has and which one (or two) they are missing. Employees are often a company's biggest asset, so developing them to their full potential is crucial. There is a great webinar being offered next week that ties in nicely with this should check it out.


  • Ryan Hale

    Adrian and Chester, thanks for that post. You've helped articulate why the balance of those three forces is so important (not just adding more of the ones that might be present).

    For a practical tool--fits on a flip chart--that any team leader can use to gauge the E+E+E in individuals, and direct it towards tangible outcomes, try this: