The Truth About Employee Engagement

The Truth About Employee Engagement

Do you have a miserable job?

It’s a question I have been considering because I read The Truth About Employee Engagement by Patrick Lencioni in November. It was a great book – I read in less than 24 hours! Earlier in the fall, I worked on an employee engagement committee at a large company. Through this study and experience, I have started to appreciate the importance of employee engagement at a deeper level.

Why Employee Engagement Matters

There is a growing body of research and surveys showing the high cost of employee engagement. Before we go any further, let’s define engagement. According to Gallup, highly engaged employees are valuable because of”the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles.” That additional effort makes a major difference over time. Discretionary effort makes a huge impact in creative and professional roles.

  • $500 Billion Lost. The estimated annual cost to the U.S. economy from employee disengagement. That lost value amounts to about 2.7% of US GDP. Capturing even a fraction of that value would make a huge difference! (Source: Officevibe)
  • High Engagement Is Associated With Higher Profits. A 2012 meta-analysis conducted by Gallup found that, ” companies with engaged workforces have higher earnings per share (EPS), and they seem to have recovered from the recession at a faster rate.”
  • Only 50% of Employees Are Satisfied With Managers. TinyPulse’s survey of several hundred organizations found that about 50% of employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisor. (Source: TINYpulse)
  • Employee Engagement Is An Executive Priority. Employee engagement was rated as the #3 most important success factor in a survey of executives. The top two factors were customer service and effective communication. (Source: Harvard Business Review)

These findings suggest a significant opportunity to the bottom line by improving engagement. Unlike creating new products or raising capital, improving engagement is a high leverage improvement. If you want to make an impact and you have limited resources, delivering improved engagement is an excellent strategy to pursue.

What I Learned From “The Truth About Employee Engagement”

Over the past few years, I have read quite a few business books. Lencioni’s books stand out for two reasons. First, he uses a fable to present his ideas. Second, his books are highly readable and easy to remember. Unlike some books and courses, I did not feel overwhelmed with recommendations and data. In the book, Lencioni presents an executive who expands a company significantly by encouraging a positive culture. After the company is sold, he retires for a short period. He starts to feel bored and wonders if his success was a fluke. That decision leads him to invest and manage a small restaurant. It’s an experiment to determine if his employee engagement approach works.

The Three Point Model For Employee Engagement

In Lencioni’s book, there are three factors one can use to predict engagement. Lencioni makes a compelling case for these principles applying to all industries and a variety of job roles. Let’s dive into the model’s factors.

1. Anonymity

Addressing this cause of disengagement requires taking an interest in people you work with. While this model would apply to a variety of work situations, Lencioni had the manager – direct report relationship in mind. This practice doesn’t require extensive knowledge. It could be asking after a relative’s health or donating to a colleague’s fundraising program. The fundamental principle is to understand people in their own right, rather than seeing them as “resources.”

2. Irrrelrevance

Finding a connection between one’s daily work and other people in the organization. Those in sales, marketing and customer service usually have no difficulty in seeing how their work impacts other people. What about other people? Those in IT, for example, rarely interact with the customer on the street. The solution to that challenge is to look at “internal customers.” After all, sales staff are usually not equipped to manage shipping, engineering, finance and other activities required to manage a modern business.

3. Immeasurement

Now that you know the model, you can lead by example. Use the examples below for different roles to learn how to use Lencioni’s model to improve your engagement and effectiveness. At first glance, lack of measurement may not seem significant. After all, annual performance reviews are a common practice at most organizations.

The major insight for measurement from this book cover a few points. An effective and motivating measurement system will provide a daily success reading. In addition, the measure will relate to an activity within the person’s control. Developing effective measures that meet these criteria will likely be a challenge. Yet, it is a challenge that is well worth the effort.

Project Manager Employee Engagement Example

Let’s examine how this model could apply to a project manager. In this example, we will look at a project manager at a large bank who is based in a project management office. Your situation may be different, yet this example can be adjusted to fit your circumstances.

  • Anonymity. Under the best conditions, the project manager will have a supportive and engaged supervisor such as the PMO director. In that case, I recommend that the project manager sustain the relationship by paying attention to what is happening in the director’s life. If the project manager is mainly working with an executive sponsor, developing a relationship with that person would also be helpful.
  • Irrrelrevance. A well designed project will only be started to serve a valuable business purpose. In that case, the project manager can draw relevance from the project vision. In addition, many project managers see their role as “clearing the way” for their analysts and subject matter to complete the project’s technical work.
  • Immeasurement. PMP Project managers understand the importance of monitoring and controlling to running a successful project. That same process also applies to an individual’s work. Given that 80% or more of a project manager’s work involves communication, measuring communication effectiveness is a promising measure. Specifics could include successfully resolving conflicts, using the project communication plan and building a good relationship with the project team members.

Question For The Comments:

What measures could you develop and use to improve your engagement and professional results?



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