June 25, 2019

Building a Highly Engaged Culture

This is our final post of our series titled, America’s Engagement Epidemic. In case you missed them, here are the links for parts  1, 2 and 3, 4, 5, and 6.

As I said in the first post of this series, America’s Engagement Epidemic provides a great deal of challenge for us, but also an incredible opportunity to see our organizations thrive as we invest in growing our people.

To do this, we first have to deepen our understanding of what we define as “engagement”. Gallup defines engaged employees as, “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” But at a deeper level, what causes employees to be involved in and enthusiastic about their work?

To accurately understands what motivates people, we lean on the work of Daniel Pink in his seminal work “Drive”. Daniel Pink is a New York Times best selling author, and with this work he answered the question, “What universally motivates all of us?” He identified three major pillars of motivation that are universal from toddlers to retirees.

What he found was that when all people experience a high level of autonomy, mastery and purpose in their work, they are more motivated, enthusiastic and ultimately more engaged in their work. As we discussed in our previous posts, Engagement is much deeper than generational differences, its broader than one single individuals job, it is impacting all levels within our organizations and cannot simply be fixed with better perks and benefits. If we truly want to make an impact, we have to understand that it’s not simply about making our employees “happy”;  it is about creating practices and procedures that maximize an individual’s sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

So how exactly do we do this?

Research shows that there are three main factors that work to increase an individual’s sense of engagement.

  1. The Manager – The manager is one of the single most important relationships within an organization. Any employee, regardless of their competency for the role, will either love or hate their job based upon their relationship with their manager. Gallup found , “The manager alone accounts for 70% of the variance in engagement based on:*

    – The managers innate tendencies

    – The managers own engagement

    – The employees perception of the managers’ behavior.

    It is important that managers reimagine their roles as “Coaching Leaders” who lead their teams, rather than simply manage them. Practically speaking, they work to create a leadership style that is decentralized; one where team members are empowered to do their work without micromanagement from the manager. This leadership style increases an individual’s sense of autonomy.
  2. Aligning individuals with their roles – All of us at one point or another have experienced what it is like to be in a role we are not well suited for. “When employees are a mismatch for their role and organization, they often struggle to succeed or become bored and restless. Their days — even their careers — can feel wasted, along with their sense of purpose. Workers want roles and employers that allow them to make the most of their strengths.”  When an individual’s true nature aligns with their roles and responsibilities, their sense of mastery increases as they experience success.
  3. Creating purpose-driven teams – All of us desire to make a great contribution to our team and our organization, but often, we don’t know what we are contributing to.  When this vision is clear, teams can work to identify how their specific team and each individual role can help to achieve the organizational vision. This practice increases an individual’s sense of purpose as they see their own contributions help their team and organization succeed.

So whose responsibility is it exactly to create cultures of high engagement?

In short, it’s all of ours.

Gallup states that, “All individuals – leaders, managers and front-line employees- are responsible for upholding their organizations culture and raising its overall level of engagement and performance.”

And each of us has a specific role to play.

  • Leaders – The single most important action you can take to help increase engagement is to create and communicate a compelling vision of the future for you, your team and your organization.
  • Managers – The most impactful decision you can make is to reimagine your role from a “boss” to a “coach” and increase the frequency of meaningful coaching conversations with those you manage.
  • Employees – Your greatest contribution to the issue of engagement is to simply own your own personal engagement, and work to identify, communicate and advocate for aspect of your work that would increase your engagement. Furthermore, contribute positively on your teams and work to raise up the level of engagement with your colleagues.

So let’s roll up our sleeves, link arms and work together to create a future for us, our teams and our organizations where all people are highly engaged in their work and empowered to achieve their highest and best contribution in work and life.