The Importance of Engaged Employees to Growth
The numbers are grim: only 13% of the world’s 1.3 billion full-time employees are truly involved at work, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace – Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide. How many are fully engaged in your company? And, anyway, why does this matter for your growth prospects?
With the global GDP slowing down and organisations facing both old competitors and new market disruptors, business growth depends increasingly on the capacity to attract loyal customers, as well as new ones. However, for that to happen, you first have to win over your own employees: their hearts, minds, creative energy and commitment to your company’s shared objectives.
The evidence shows that, as staff engagement levels rise, companies collect key benefits. Deeply involved employees are more efficient, working longer hours and going beyond what is asked. This is why Gallup and McKinsey recently announced the creation of the Organisational Science Initiative to find the ‘first-ever global gold standards around employee engagement and organisational health’.
Companies with more engaged workers also register a median of 10% higher customer ratings, 22% more profits, a 21% increase in productivity and 41% fewer defects (i.e. more quality) when compared to bottom-quartile units. These results can be found in Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace study.
This is not breaking news. Great leaders and human resources teams have understood the passion-performance bond for decades now, and management models have evolved accordingly. Since 2000, management’s focus has been shifting, as organisations have gradually realised the need to unleash people’s skills and talents in order to fuel sustainable growth. In what can be called the ‘2.0 Age of Management’, chief executive officers, top management, business managers and all employees are invited to join this continual effort to evolve. Finding new paths and better ways to do what we do – in essence, innovation – has become everyone’s job.
The Growth Challenge
The investment in getting more of your people to contribute to finding new and better products and services seems to pay off. Over the next five years, the most innovative companies in the world will grow at a rate of 62.2%, as compared to a 21% average for all the businesses analysed, as PwC reports in its The Global Innovation Survey for 2015.
On the one hand, in your own efforts to grow, you can count on your resources – of which your people and their skills, ideas and cumulative experience are by far the most defining. On the other hand, you have tools, methods, processes and capabilities that enable your company’s evolution and innovation. But exactly how do these relate to each other?
Engagement comes when the people that make up any organisation feel empowered. When they believe they have an active role in transforming ideas into value and a stake in the value produced. We can link collaborative innovation with Gallup’s 12 questions (Q12®), used to assess employee engagement. Here´s how:
In this sense, engagement brings about innovation, while collaborative innovation initiatives have been proven to bring about more staff engagement. And, everyday, both define your company’s future.
How to Establish the Right Connection
Collaborative innovation initiatives, based on innovation management platforms that work as idea markets, can genuinely help you harness the ideas and hidden talents of your different people – from various business units and countries – focusing their skills on your key challenges and keeping them engaged over time. Yet, to make these efforts work, we recommend that you:
- Select meaningful challenges – Find specific and relevant challenges. People must identify with them, and you need to align them with your business or strategic challenges.
- Capture different profiles – Consider your different people’s profiles. Let them contribute not only with ideas, but also by assessing others’ ideas. This gives everyone the chance to have a say, even if they don’t have specific ideas.
- Use gamification and social mechanisms – Choose a platform that is accessible and easy to use. Game techniques also help you make participation fun and continuous and develop more use and more loyalty in this practise. Gamification can play a leading role in motivating people and compelling them to jump in and bring value to your initiatives. Also, activate social components of the platform, such as leaderboards.
- Set appropriate incentives and communication mechanisms – Make sure you also draw up a productive and appealing incentive plan, including prizes and recognition, and a strong, effective communication plan that guarantees community awareness, maximises participation and fosters collaboration.
Remember that the more individuals experience visibility into the future and the more they can participate and share in the success of projects to which they have contributed, the more likely they are to continue to be mobilised.
By following these guidelines, our clients have achieved very relevant participation levels in their innovation efforts, based on a proven innovation management platform. Take just two examples:
- A client from the health care industry has now attracted 8,000 active participants to platform challenges in a universe of 14,000 employees. After a little over a year, the company’s engagement levels had already overtaken even the most ambitious targets, by growing from 712 people involved in previous initiatives to 3,309.
- One customer from the telecom industry has reached an impressive challenges participation level of 74% (10,400 active participants among 14,000 employees), maintaining high engagement levels now for over six years. Within four years, employees’ strategic alignment with company goals also increased from 58% to 76%.
In addition to experiencing more intangible benefits resulting from increased engagement – such as strategic alignment, more motivation and higher productivity levels – both clients have met important financial outcomes.
With Millennials (i.e. those born during the 1980s or 1990s) entering the workplace, engagement needs to hit a new high. Six in ten Millennials say that a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer, yet only 28% believe their current employer is making full use of their skills, reports The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2015. As Generation Z follows (i.e. those born between the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s), the need to motivate your workforce will escalate.
As a result, the biggest challenge leaders and managers face – today and in the years ahead – is how to drive their talent and build organisations in which collaborative innovation sustains engagement over time. Engagement becomes the muscle behind innovation, and both work together to make sure your company is future fit.
Is your company future fit? For any questions or to share some ideas, do reach me at email@example.com.
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is VP of Business Services at Exago. Her academic baseline plus her advisory experience (formerly at Deloitte and KPMG) allow her to optimise the balance between IT and Business Services applied to innovation projects. She works with companies worldwide, spanning several industries, but with a common goal: to unleash people’s hidden potential to solve key business challenges. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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There is some curious language in the Gallup Survey accompanied by some largely paternalistic language. The key assumption is that engagement (the ability to understand and align one’s efforts with the purpose of the organisation) is the same as engaging. The hypothesis seems to be that if you “engage” with me (questions 4-10) enough, I will feel engaged and the Gallup survey results will be beneficial. An alternative, more progressive approach would be to reframe the questions more intelligently in terms of an individual feeling engaged by the fact that they understood where the business had to go, and could align themselves in making it happen without having to be supervised directly. The elephant in the room is the “Zombie Cycle” of micromanagement whereby supervisors micromanage and thus create helpless workers, who then require micromanagement.