What do we actually mean when we talk about engagement? Writing for HBR, leadership consultant John Baldoni has a to-the-point definition. Engagement happens, he says, when "people want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organization."
We've talked before about how a sense of engagment is a symptom of doing meaningful work—to the point that the people most satisfied with their careers have the hardest jobs. But, as a new Gallup meta-analysis suggests, the benefits of high engagement don't end with meaningful, hard-toiling feel-goodery, but extend into the products that people create.
Beyond what a workplace Jedi has already taught us, there are further takeaways from the 1.4 million employee study:
- Organizations with high engagement have 22 percent high productivity
- Highly engaged organizations have double the success rate of lowly engaged ones
- Companies in the top quarter of engagement report lower absenteeism and turnover
- Highly engaged business units report 48 perecent fewer safety incidents
- Highly engaged business units report 41 percent fewer defects
But it doesn't end there. Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup Research, added some texture to those numbers, saying that:
- Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant.
- They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise
- They personally "own" the result of their work and that of the organization
- (They) re-create jobs so that each person has a chance to do what they do best
- (They) help people see the connection between their everyday work and the larger purpose or mission of the organization
That is a lot from one little metric. So why do so many companies have problems with engagement? Because, Harter observes, many don't make engagement a part of their overall strategy, leaving its role unclear and hard to execute on.
Clarity, then, is the quickest first step to getting the positive benefits of engagement. Harter tells Baldoni that engagement arises from when employees clearly know their roles, have what they need to fulfill their roles, and can see the connection between their individual role and the purpose of the organization.
This confirms a point made by Jim Kouzes, the Leadership Challenge co-author who we had the priveledge of talking to last year. He distilled his decades of research into leadership into a few choice turns of phrase, including this one:
People want to feel like every day they’re making meaningful progress toward some meaningful course. Leaders have to be mindful of always addressing a challenge in a way that creates that meaning and purpose.
Hat tip: HBR
[Image: Flickr user Tambako The Jaguar]